When Adam Gase checked his phone sometime before dawn Monday, he came across a text message from Arian Foster.
Soon thereafter, the coach and running back spoke, but Gase already had an idea of the subject matter.
“I was hoping I was wrong,” Gase said Monday.
He was not. Foster did indeed decide to retire midway through his first and only season with the Dolphins, closing the book on a meteoric career that simply fizzled out late.
It wasn’t a huge surprise. Foster simply couldn’t get healthy. He had appeared in just seven of his past 26 games as a pro, and after yet another setback Sunday, finally decided he’d had enough.
Gase said the early morning conversation was a difficult one because he knew how much Foster had contributed to the Dolphins from a leadership standpoint. Yet Gase insisted Wednesday that he is not upset by the decision.
“I want what’s best for him,” he said. “If there was anything pulling him to where he couldn’t be all-in and his body wasn’t all-in, I’m not going to be upset about that because I had a great relationship with him.”
Soon after Gase got the news, teammates began getting the word. Foster sent a group text to the Dolphins’ running backs and broke the news.
“We didn’t know it was coming,” Jay Ajayi said. “He did his own thing and credit to him for calling it when he wanted to.”
In truth, the Dolphins aren’t missing much with Foster gone. He had just 55 yards and averaged 2.5 yards per carry in his short time with Miami.
But he was also the only running back on the roster old enough to rent a car. Damien Williams is now the oldest Dolphins back, and he is just 24.
Now that group, led by Ajayi, has to “grow up really quickly,” Gase said.
Ajayi is on his way. His attitude couldn’t be any more different than it was for 10 days in early September, when he went in the tank after learning he wouldn’t be Week 1 the starter.
Gase left Ajayi home for that road game as punishment.
Few then could have envisioned what the NFL would announce just a month and half later: that Ajayi is the first running back since LaDainian Tomlinson to win AFC Offensive Player of the Week in back-to-back weeks.
Of course, nobody could have dreamed that Ajayi would top 200 yards in consecutive weeks, either, becoming just the fourth player to do so.
“[Tomlinson] definitely is someone I looked up to growing up and a reason I love playing running back,” Ajayi said of the retired Chargers star. “I got to meet him over the years. To be mentioned along with him is great.”
Ajayi will obviously remain the team’s featured runner for the foreseeable future. But who will be Miami’s first back off the bench with Foster gone? Based on Gase’s comments Wednesday, Williams is ahead of rookie Kenyan Drake, but the Dolphins also don’t want to lose Williams’ special-teams prowess.
So all three will likely see action from scrimmage. But Gase did not rule out bringing in someone else, too. He has gone with just three running backs in the past, but the Dolphins are considering adding a fourth. Those are decisions that will be made before the team returns to practice Tuesday following their bye weekend.
“You can see that Arian leaving puts pressure on those two guys to be right, to do things right, and grow up quickly,” Gase said.
And if they don’t, Foster will be just a phone call away.
“Basically his conversation to me was, ‘I’ll never be far away,’ ” Gase said.