An upgraded Dolphins wide receiver unit continues to be beset by injuries, which has forced management to sign three players in the past four days.
At least four receivers have sustained injuries in camp, and Mike Wallace also stood on the sideline for all of team drills during Wednesday night’s practice, for reasons the team would not explain.
Wallace participated in individual drills and appeared to be moving normally. Coach Joe Philbin refused to discuss Wallace’s status or why he did not play in Monday’s scrimmage.
What’s more, Brian Hartline did not participate in Wednesday’s practice and appears to be nursing an injury to his lower leg, in the calf area. Hartline declined to discuss his injury, saying his absence from Monday’s scrimmage “was coach’s decision — nothing to do with me.” He missed all of last preseason with a calf injury.
While his teammates practiced Wednesday, Hartline did light running and leg exercises. With Hartline and Wallace out, Brandon Gibson and Marvin McNutt were the first-team receivers.
Meanwhile, Armon Binns — who entered camp as the likely No. 4 receiver — was released by the Dolphins on Wednesday after sustaining a season-ending knee injury during Sunday’s practice. Undrafted rookie Jasper Collins also was released after trying to play through a hamstring injury for a week.
And Rishard Matthews remains out with a knee injury that is expected to sideline him for a few weeks.
After signing undrafted former Louisville receiver Andrell Smith on Sunday, the Dolphins added two others Wednesday: former Dolphin Julius Pruitt and Keenan Davis, who went undrafted out of Iowa. All three have good size; Smith and Davis are 6-3, Pruitt is 6-2.
The Dolphins chose Pruitt and Davis over three others who auditioned: veteran receivers Laurent Robinson and Austin Collie and undrafted Oregon rookie Lavaiser Tuinei.
“We have a history with Julius — we’re glad to have him back,” Philbin said. “He’s a good player.”
Pruitt had three previous stints with the Dolphins and appeared in nine regular season games in 2011 but did not catch a pass. He was released before last season, which he called “heartbreaking.”
Pruitt, who had several catches in Wednesday’s practice, spent the 2012 regular season out of football, caring for his three-month old daughter, and no NFL team asked him to audition before the Dolphins called him this week. He said was “pretty nervous” before Tuesday’s workout.
“I had jitters,” he said. “Being out of football for a year, you don’t want to lose it again. I’m hungrier.”
Pruitt said “everything is familiar to me” about the team’s offensive system and “special teams is where I plan to make my mark.”
As for Davis, he caught 111 passes for 1,459 yards and seven touchdowns at Iowa and signed with Cleveland after the draft but was released last week.
“It’s an emotional rollercoaster,” he said. “You have to start rethinking your approach in Cleveland.”
Others in the mix for those final two receiver jobs, besides Davis and Pruitt: McNutt (who was very good in Wednesday’s practice and throughout camp), Matthews, Smith, Chad Bumphis, Jeff Fuller (caught two deep balls Wednesday), Brian Tyms and Kenny Stafford.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill said he is not concerned about the injuries at receiver: “Those guys will be back when they’re ready. To have some time to spend with our four and five receivers is a good thing. It’s beneficial for late in the year” in case there are injuries.
Return specialist Marcus Thigpen, who had played mostly running back early in camp, is now getting more work at receiver.
“I like everything he’s doing,” Philbin said. “I’m delighted with him. He has good hands, finds a way to get open.” But Thigpen dropped an easy catch Wednesday night.
Philbin said he has an idea how much his starters will play in Sunday’s Hall of Fame game against Dallas in Canton, Ohio, but wouldn’t say.
Meanwhile, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett suggested he will primarily play Nick Stephens and Alex Tanney, who are battling for the No. 3 quarterback job, instead of starter Tony Romo and primary backup Kyle Orton. Garrett publicly hasn’t ruled out the possibility of Romo playing one series.