DAVIE, Fla. — Kevin Curtis could have just taken this season off.
No one would have blamed him if he had, not after the veteran wide receiver underwent surgery 12 weeks ago to treat testicular cancer.
Not after that came on top of previous issues with his knee and a 2008 surgery to repair a sports hernia.
"The guy," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said Wednesday, "has been through a lot of hurdles."
Instead, Curtis, 32, fought back to regain his career, to keep doing what he loves to do.
Six weeks after his Sept. 23 surgery, he started working out again back home in Salt Lake City. Ten days after that, the former Eagles and Rams standout was ready to audition for NFL teams.
He tried out with the Giants the same week former Dolphin Derek Hagan did. The Giants signed Hagan instead, popping him right into a Nov. 21 night game at the Eagles.
Hagan wowed a national audience by catching a touchdown against the team that cut Curtis on March 18. Curtis would have to wait.
More tryouts came with the Lions and Seahawks. There were negotiations with Curtis' agent, but no deals were consummated with a player who signed a six-year, $32 million contract ($9.5 million guaranteed) with the Eagles in 2007.
And then over the weekend, when the Dolphins decided to place Brian Hartline on injured reserve following surgery on his left hand, Curtis had a new opportunity.
The Dolphins had been one of the first teams to call when Curtis hit the open market last spring. This time he showed enough to get back in the league.
"It's a credit to Kevin to even think about in the (15th) week of the season to want to continue to do this," Sparano said. "It could have been easy to say, 'I'll wait and do this next year and see whether or not we can do this.' But he's an eager guy."
Curtis has caught just six passes the past two seasons, but he still hopes to regain the form that helped him grab a career-best 77 passes for 1,110 yards and six touchdowns in 2007.
Sparano says he sees qualities in Curtis that remind him of both Hartline and former Dolphins receiver Greg Camarillo, especially when it comes to the intelligence it takes to thrive at a level beyond one's natural gifts.
Curtis' Wonderlic score at the 2003 Combine, Sparano notes, was one of the highest "that had come out in an awful long time."1 comment on this story
Curtis, a former third-rounder out of Utah State, says he was fortunate the cancer was detected early enough for him to avoid chemotherapy. Checkups every three months should be enough to keep him out of danger, although doctors nixed his original plan to postpone surgery until after this season.
As a cancer survivor, he admittedly attacks this next career challenge with an even stronger mindset than he had before.
"It's one of those things you don't think is going to happen to you," he said. "I'll definitely look at everything differently now. The battle I had to go through wasn't too big of a deal compared to what a lot of people with that disease have to go through, but it still gave me a different perspective on life."