DAVIE, Florida — Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey became emotional Monday while discussing the $52.2 million, five-year contract extension he received from the team.
The new deal makes Pouncey the NFL's highest-paid center, and the $22 million of guaranteed money gives his family the security he has always wanted for them.
That reality, along with the size of the commitment Miami made to him despite off-the-field issues brought conflicting emotions.
"They could have easily given up on me a long time ago," said Pouncey, who missed the first four games of the 2014 season following hip surgery and moved over to right guard for the remainder of the season.
"They stuck with me, it's something I'll never forget and it's something I'll bring into this facility every day. The way I'm going to work and push myself and my teammates, there won't be a doubt that they made the right decision to keep me here."
Pouncey, a two-time Pro Bowler with the Dolphins and their first-round draft pick in 2011, was one of three players named in the bullying scandal in the 2013 season.
Former linemen Richie Incognito and John Jerry were the two other players accused of bullying Jonathan Martin.
Pouncey mentioned improving his off-field behavior is a focus after past issues.
In addition to the bullying scandal, Pouncey and his brother, Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, were criticized for showing support for Aaron Hernandez, their former college teammate at the University of Florida.
The twins were photographed at their birthday party on South Beach wearing hats with the words "Free Hernandez" printed on the front.
"I look back at my career and I could have done so many things better," Pouncey said. "There's stuff I put my family through. ... There were days when I was just disappointed in myself, but I'm just happy to be here and that it's all over with now and that we can look forward to the future.
"I'm excited to be on this football team. I've been with these guys my whole career and it feels like a family to me and I always knew that I'd be here and there wouldn't be any other place."
Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey brought up the team's past success at the center position with Jim Langer and Dwight Stephenson when talking about Pouncey.
"He's proved himself on the field and is a quality person," Hickey said. "We're just excited that we have an opportunity to keep him here as our long-term center."
Miami had owed Pouncey $7.4 million in 2015, which was the final season of his rookie contract, but now he will earn an average of $10.4 million per year.
He knows with that big of a contract comes high expectations, including how he handles himself in the locker room, with reporters and out in public.
"When they give these kind of contracts, it's expected for you to be the guy they ask you to be," Pouncey said. "It's expected for you to not have little slip-ups here and there. I just can't wait for it. I'm looking forward to it. I'm ready to take that step in my life."