Miami Dolphins

The most painful 20 minutes of a Dolphins running back’s life

First, Damien Williams laughed.

And then he screamed.

And cursed.

And screamed some more.

The date was Nov. 26, three days after Thanksgiving, and Williams was in a world of pain.

The Dolphins’ fourth-year running back had just popped off an 11-yard run against the Patriots, but when he landed awkwardly on his shoulder, he heard a sickening sound.

“Stuck my arm out, the dude (a Patriots defender) was on my back, and we kind of rolled into it,” Williams told the Miami Herald. “I could just hear it just crunch. I knew it was something different. I’ve never really had to deal with an injury, so when it happened, I was more so laughing. I was like, ‘Is this real right now?’ 

It was real — and painful.

Williams separated his shoulder. That sounds bad enough, right?

But then imagine how it felt as they tried, and failed, to pop it back into place.

“They couldn’t put it back in,” Williams said. “It took like 20 minutes to put it back in.”

Williams is one of the Dolphins’ most likeable — and demonstrative — players. His language can be, shall we say, salty at times.

So yeah, there were some four-letter words shouted in the Dolphins’ medical area of New England’s Gillette Stadium as doctors tried to get him right.

“Oh my god, they all mixed together,” Williams said of the profanities that poured from his mouth. “When they finally got it back in, the pain was gone. They’ve been doing a great job of rehabbing, trying to get me out there as fast as possible.”

Williams has missed the past three games but practiced on a limited basis this week and is hopeful he can play Sunday against the Chiefs. The Dolphins, however, are not so optimistic. They listed him as doubtful for Sunday.

But if somehow he does play, it leads to the obvious question: Will his starting job be waiting for him when he returns?

Kenyan Drake has been a revelation in Williams’ absence, rushing for 312 yards — which comes out to 45 percent of his career total — in the past three weeks.

So who’s your starter, Adam Gase?

“I don’t know,” the Dolphins coach said when asked that question by a reporter this week. “I mean I’ll worry about that [later]. I don’t care who starts. I might just throw no backs out there just to [tick] you off.”

Drake has been so good in Year 2 because he altered his behavior from Year 1. He acknowledged recently that his maturity was not what it should have been as a rookie and said: “We all got to grow up one day, right?”

One day has been this year.

“I had a funny conversation with him [about that] yesterday,” Dolphins offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said. “But he is, he’s maturing. From a year ago until now, it’s night and day. I think one of the good measuring sticks for us on players is what you look like in December. Those are big games.

“He has played winning football both games in December,” Christensen added.

Still, the Dolphins believe they are a better team when Drake and Williams get involved. Drake has carried the ball 64 times the past three weeks — which is more than the Dolphins would prefer.

The Dolphins do not envision Drake as a 300-carry back in 2018, whether or not Williams — a pending free agent — returns to the team.

“A lot of it will be how does his body hold up? How does he hold up?” Christensen said of Drake. “Ideally, you get Damien back healthy and are able to split those reps a little bit more and keep people fresh.”

So will Williams play Sunday? Probably not. But if the decision was up to him, it’s not even a question.

“I’d say I’m at 100 [percent],” Williams said. “That’s just me. As the doctors, I think they try not to tell me too much. My strength is there, nothing tore. Everything’s good. It’s just getting the strength back. I feel like I’m stronger.”

▪  Quarterback Matt Moore (foot) is expected to miss the Dolphins-Chiefs game. The Dolphins listed him as doubtful.

Six Dolphins are questionable: defensive ends Andre Branch and Terrence Fede, safeties T.J. McDonald and Michael Thomas, wide receiver DeVante Parker and cornerback Cordrea Tankersley.

Adam H. Beasley: 305-376-3565, @AdamHBeasley