The Dolphins lost a starter Wednesday. Louis Delmas lost more than a million dollars.
The question going forward: Has Delmas’ career been lost as well?
For the second time in less than a year, Delmas sustained what appeared to be a catastrophic injury to his right knee. Some nine months after tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament, Delmas has done so again, initial tests have revealed.
If the prognosis is correct, Delmas will be lost for the season and would have the longest of roads back to football. Teams were already wary of Delmas’ injury history; this offseason, he signed a contract with language that voided all but $400,000 of his $1.5 million contract if he sustained a season-ending injury in the preseason.
He also obviously will not receive any of the playing-time incentive bonuses that were written into his deal.
But after two ACL tears in as many seasons, Delmas, 28, would be fortunate to ever play again, industry insiders say.
“He’s a great teammate, a great guy,” fellow Dolphins safety Reshad Jones said. “It’s bigger than football. I just went to make sure his mind is right and say a prayer for him.”
Delmas went to the ground untouched during one-on-one drills Wednesday during the first of two joint practices with the Carolina Panthers.
Delmas collapsed in obvious pain while covering former Dolphins receiver Ted Ginn Jr., grabbing his right knee. He needed to be carted off the field.
Delmas is undergoing an MRI exam to confirm the severity. Dolphins coach Joe Philbin would not get into specifics when he met with reporters coming off the field.
“I haven’t really had a chance, obviously, since practice has wrapped up,” Philbin said. “Obviously, we’ll check on him and hope for the best.”
TWO MAJOR INJURIES
It was the second scary injury on the same Wofford College practice field in less than an hour. Earlier in the day, star Panthers receiver Kelvin Benjamin got injured running a route against Jones — also untouched. Benjamin sustained a torn ACL in his left knee.
When asked if the condition of the playing surface might have played a role, Philbin said: “I think it’s a great facility. Iwalked the whole thing and was on every field. I think it’s a great setup they have here.”
Receiver Rishard Matthews, however, had a different view.
“This field is different from what we practice on,” Matthews said. “I think ours is more low cut. It was [wet] when we first got out there.
“It could definitely lead to more to injuries, especially with those two guys hurt. I’m not saying it’s from the field. I’m not saying that at all. But definitely the field is very different.”
If Delmas is again lost for the season, the Dolphins will decide between Walt Aikens and Michael Thomas as their starting safety alongside Reshad Jones.
Aikens worked with the starters Wednesday following Delmas’ injury.
The Dolphins had already viewed Aikens as Delmas’ long-term replacement. Wednesday’s development likely accelerated that timetable.
“Walt has been doing a great job,” Jones said last week. “He has all the ability. Big, physical, can run well. He just needs to continue to work on his craft and get more in the playbook and learn the defense in and out. He can help us on defense.”
Because of Delmas’ contract clause, the Dolphins will come into an additional $1 million in salary cap space once he is played on injured reserve. Among veteran safeties who are unsigned: Thomas DeCoud, Dawan Landry, Quinton Carter, Bernard Pollard, Delano Howell, C.J. Spillman and LaRon Landry (who is suspended for the first 10 games this season).
David Canter, the South Florida-based agent for Chargers safety Eric Weddle, lobbied on Twitter for the Dolphins to trade for his client. Weddle is in a contract dispute with the Chargers, and Canter said Wednesday: “Why wouldn’t I want my best friend with me?”
Even Canter acknowledged a trade is highly unlikely for a number of reasons, not the least of which: the Dolphins are already over the 2016 salary cap. Plus, the Chargers have shown no interest in dealing Weddle.
It’s a sad irony that Benjamin and Delmas sustained noncontact injuries, considering Philbin’s top worry entering this week was a player getting injured during a practice-field brawl.
He and Rivera both told their players that fighting was prohibited.
That rule lasted for about two minutes of offensive line versus defensive line blocking drills, however.
Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon and Panthers tackle Michael Oher traded punches, and their teammates quickly jumped into the fray. The fight broke up without further incident.
“We came down here, we expected it,” guard Dallas Thomas said. “We had the talk that fights were not allowed, but we’re all grown men.
Miami Herald sportswriter Barry Jackson contributed to this report.