The Dolphins might consider leaving their running backs alone in practice until the start of the regular season.
Their best backs keep getting hurt.
Jay Ajayi — the NFL’s fourth-leading rusher in 2016 — remains in the concussion protocol, and he might have gotten some company Monday.
Kenyan Drake went down after being on the receiving end of a flush, helmet-to-helmet hit from corner Torry McTyer during team drills. Drake stayed on the ground for a while before being helped to the locker room, at times using an athletic trainer as a crutch.
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He did not return. Adam Gase had no immediate update on his status, but it appeared Drake suffered a head injury.
McTyer, an undrafted rookie trying to make the team, was remorseful after practice, and planned to go check on his teammate as soon as he got off the field.
“It wasn't really what it was supposed to be,” McTyer said. “I just wanted to fit him up. But the No. 1 thing is you always want to keep your guys safe. Whenever something like that happens, it's always an unfortunate thing. I hope he's OK.”
McTyer added: “It just kind of happened bang-bang. I never want to hurt anybody out here, especially in practice when guys are competing and making plays.”
Drake and Ajayi got hurt in similar ways — on hits from defensive backs. T.J. McDonald dinged Ajayi during the Dolphins’ only full-contact practice two weeks ago, and Ajayi still has not been fully cleared.
And yet, even after this latest injury, Gase didn’t seem keen on dialing back the intensity at practice.
“It’s football,” Gase said. “That’s why they have pads on.”
Added Damien Williams (one of the increasingly few healthy Dolphins running backs): “We just got to try to keep everybody safe as possible. It was kind of one of those, he wasn't expecting him to be as low. But at of the day, we're running backs. We've got to expect to be hit.”
If Drake did indeed suffer a concussion, he’ll be out for a bit. And it’ll be yet another blow to a Dolphins roster that has been ravaged by injuries this summer.
The biggest loss: quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who’s out until 2018 after tearing his ACL on a non-contact play in practice.
On the same day Tannehill went down, left guard Ted Larsen tore his biceps muscle and will be sidelined for months.
And then on Thursday, Raekwon McMillan — the Dolphins’ projected starter at middle linebacker — mangled his right knee on his very first NFL snap.
In all, the Dolphins were without five projected starters at practice Monday: Tannehill, McMillan, Larsen, tight end Julius Thomas (back tightness), safety Nate Allen (groin).
Ajayi at least is making progress, even if he hasn’t yet been cleared to play in Thursday’s preseason game against the Ravens.
He was back at practice Tuesday after leaving the day before with dehydration, and went through 11-on-11 drills.
“He's getting back into the role,” Williams said of Ajayi. “It's been hot the last couple of days, and he's just getting back into it. But he's doing good, looking good. Hopefully he'll get back to where he left off.”
If neither Ajayi nor Drake can play Thursday, Williams is line for a long look. The Dolphins presumably still need to decide on who Ajayi’s primary backup will be, and Williams could conceivably put some distance between himself and Drake with a solid night.
Storm Johnson, Senorise Perry and De’Veon Smith are the only other running backs on Miami’s roster.
“My mind's set,” Williams said. “When I seen that happen, first you think about your guys — go check on him, make sure he's all right — but at the end of the day, whoever's behind him has to step up.”