He never talked about it, but Reshad Jones played all of last year with a shoulder injury.
Doctors diagnosed him with a torn labrum early in the season. While that sounds serious, it’s a relatively common injury for NFL athletes to play through, so Jones did.
But toughing it out is simply not an option this year. Jones, the Dolphins’ Pro Bowl safety, has a significant rotator cuff injury, and will miss the remainder of the season -- no matter how high his tolerance for pain.
The Dolphins will be without their second-leading tackler, and arguably their best overall player, for the rest of the year, the team announced Wednesday. The Dolphins placed him on injured reserve; they claimed ex-Chief defensive end Nick Williams off waivers to fill the roster spot.
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How bad is this development for Miami? Just ask the players tasked with replacing him.
“It’s definitely a devastating blow,” said Isa Abdul-Quddus.
Added Michael Thomas: “There’s no player who can replace Reshad Jones. He’s one of the top safeties, if not the top safety in the league.”
And arguably the most reliable. Sunday’s game against the Bills will be first one he’s missed for any reason other than suspension since 2011.
Jones was forced to sit out four games in 2014 after he tested positive for a banned performance-enhancing drug.
In the four games without Jones that year, the Dolphins allowed an average of 322.3 yards and 24.3 points. In the 12 games with Jones, they surrendered just 280.3 yards and 23 per points per outing. While that’s of course a small sample, it hints at Jones’ impact on this defense.
“The thing that we’ve got to do now is we’ve got to step up,” said Dolphins coach Adam Gase. “Guys have to move into some positions here that they need to make some plays and we’ve got to play great team defense.”
Jones has been dealing with pain for some time, Thomas said, but was determined not to miss a game.
Jones knew something was truly wrong immediately after the game, teammates said. But the Dolphins sent him for a second opinion before formally shutting him down.
Apparently, that second look confirmed what the first did: That his most recent shoulder injury is far more serious than the one he suffered last year.
Jones was able to keep the labrum tear quiet for all of 2015. (And 2016, too; he did not miss a practice due to the labrum this season.)
Jones went on to start all 16 games last year and led the Dolphins in solo tackles (106 total) and interceptions (five) — including two he returned for touchdowns.
It was his best season of what has been an excellent career, and Jones wanted compensation that reflected that. He skipped all of the team’s voluntary spring workouts and practices in protest of his contract situation.
He ended the holdout during the team’s mandatory minicamp, saying at the time:
“I feel confident that the organization and my agent will work something out. I’m here to play football. … I’m here. Everything’s behind me. I’m ready to play football.”
Four months later, Jones’ contract situation is unchanged. He has one year remaining on his existing deal; Jones is owed $7.1 million in base salary in 2017, but none of that is guaranteed.
The Dolphins could conceivably move on from Jones after this season with minimal salary cap pain, but unless his injury precludes him from playing, it’s hard to see how Jones is not on the team in 2017.
Dolphins corner Chris Culliver, meanwhile, is simply looking to get his career back on track. Culliver practiced Wednesday for the first time since tearing his ACL and MCL; he went through individual drills.
“I’m super, over-the-top ready now,” Culliver said. “I’m ready to get back out there. I’ve been patient for a long time. And the day has come.”
Culliver remains on the physically unable to perform list, but could be activated and play at any time.
When asked when that might be, he responded: “Not sure. It depends on how comfortable I feel. I’m sure it’s something we’ll be talking about in the next couple of days.”
Meanwhile, cornerback Xavien Howard remains sidelined by a knee injury, and his replacement, Tony Lippett, is working through a hamstring issue. Lippett was limited in his participation Wednesday.
As for Zach Vigil, the linebacker practiced for the first time this season after missing the first six games with a back injury, but only on a limited basis. Defensive end Dion Jordan remains sidelined with a knee injury.