HOUSTON -- The nightmare scenario occurred for the Dolphins midway through the second quarter:
They lost tight end Dustin Keller, a critical piece of their offense, to an apparent knee injury in a meaningless game.
Keller was injured when the Texans’ D.J. Swearinger hit him in the right leg with his helmet while trying to break up a pass. Keller dropped the ball and fell to the ground in obvious pain.
He needed to be carted off the field. The severity of the injury was not immediately known. The Dolphins do not disclose any information about injuries during the preseason.
The injury came on the Dolphins’ fifth drive — long after the Texans had pulled their starters. Even Miami’s first-team defense had been off the field for several possessions by that point.
When the 1972 Dolphins make their long-awaited visit to the White House on Tuesday, there will be at least three members of the team noticeably absent.
Jim Langer, Bob Kuechenberg and Manny Fernandez have all declined the invitation to attend because of political reasons. They are fiercely opposed to President Barack Obama’s policies, and as Kuechenberg put it Saturday, it would be “hypocritical” to attend.
“I don’t belong there,” said Kuechenberg, and offensive lineman who spent 14 years with the Dolphins, including the famed undefeated season. “It’s about that simple.”
Added Fernandez, a defensive tackle on that championship team: “I am diametrically opposed to this administration. I’m close to all the players, so I’m disappointed that it might have come during this administration.”
Defensive end Dion Jordan missed Saturday’s game, a week after apparently aggravating a shoulder injury that has bedeviled the third overall draft pick since last year. Jordan had surgery on the torn labrum before the draft.
The Dolphins were also without defensive tackle Randy Starks (knee), guard John Jerry (knee) and tight end Kyle Miller (ankle).
However, the Dolphins did get a couple of key pieces back. Cornerback Jamar Taylor (sports hernia), guard Lance Louis (knee) and cornerback Rishard Matthews (undisclosed) were all in uniform for the first time this preseason. Quarterback Pat Devlin also dressed after missing practice last week.
During CBS-4’s pregame show, Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland — who doesn’t often speak during the season — weighed in on a number of issues.
• On wide receiver Mike Wallace, who caught three passes including a touchdown later in the evening: “We need to get Ryan [ Tannehill]and him connected, obviously. But I’ve seen it every single day in practice the last week.”
• On Tannehill’s growth: “I think just his tempo, No. 1. His ball location, No. 2. Just his command of the offense and running the team. He’s not afraid to get after an offensive lineman or a receiver for a dropped pass, so you’re seeing some leadership aspects come into play as well. He’s got a long way to go but you see steps along every phase.”
• Why the Dolphins targeted free agent linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler: “Really, the thought was that we needed to get faster and more explosive and more physical at the point of attack. And we really looked a lot at Koa Misi in that regard, and Koa was a very physical, downhill player. We really wanted to emulate a lot of what Koa was doing.”
• On how the team will use Jordan: “I’m going to leave that up to the defensive coaches, because I know they’re tickled to get their hands on him whether it’s putting his hand in the ground or versus the No.2 receiver in the slot or just playing linebacker.”