Dolphins defensive end William Hayes tore his ACL while sacking the Raiders’ Derek Carr on Sunday, and the NFL’s new rules to protect the quarterback might have been the reason.
Dolphins coach Adam Gase announced Hayes is out for the season during his Monday news conference, and provided this important piece of context:
Hayes got hurt because he was trying not to put body weight on Carr, which has been a controversial point of emphasis this season.
“His foot got caught on the ground,” Gase said, showing restraint amid his frustration. “It hurts. He was one of our leaders, one of our best guys in the locker room. ... It’s going to be a tough one for us to swallow.”
The Dolphins lose not only their best run-stopping defensive end, but their season leader in sacks. Hayes has two.
And his injury is the most compelling argument yet that the NFL’s rule intended to protect quarterbacks has many unintended consequences.
“Let’s keep it honest: That rule is a tough rule to gauge,” said Dolphins defensive tackle Akeem Spence. “Will’s gonna make a play, trying to sack the quarterback, then roll off at the end not trying to put all his weight on [Carr] and get his sack taken away, and then he ends up getting hurt. It sucks. He’s trying to protect the quarterback while still trying to make a play, and it’s a double-edged sword.
“What do you want players to do, you know? We know the rule, but we don’t know the ins and outs of it,” Spence added. “I saw Clay Matthews had another one yesterday. What do you want a guy to do, man? He’s gotta put the guy down, but how much is too much weight? What technique do you use and how do you go about it? We’re still asking questions just like y’all are asking questions now.”
Matthews, the Packers’ star linebacker, has been now twice flagged for how he executed what any objective observer would agree were clean hits on opposing quarterbacks.
Matthews went off in the Green Bay locker room Sunday, saying the league is “getting soft.”
“Unfortunately this league’s going in a direction I think a lot of people don’t like. I think they’re getting soft,” he added. “The only thing hard about this league is the fines they levy down on guys like me who play the game hard.”
Richard Sherman, the San Francisco 49ers’ outspoken cornerback, added on Twitter: “They don’t care about the rest of us getting hurt. Long as the QB is safe.”
Sunday’s injury-plagued Dolphins win stretched thin a defensive line that had great depth just a few days ago.
Andre Branch also left Sunday’s game with a knee injury and did not return. Gase did not have a timetable for Branch’s return Monday, but he is expected to miss two to four weeks, a source tells the Miami Herald.
But the Dolphins are acting as though they need help at the position. They reached out to representatives of ex-Dolphins defensive end Cameron Malveaux to schedule a workout Monday. Kendall Langford, the veteran interior lineman who spent part of training camp with the Dolphins, is also available.
“That’s gonna take time,” Spence said. “Will’s a good dude, man, great guy, great locker room teammate and definitely a guy you want to be out there with on Sunday. Guys gotta continue to step up, man. Me, some of the D-tackles and d-ends, we’re gonna have to do it by committee.”
In other Dolphins injury news from Sunday, linebacker Chase Allen and tight end A.J. Derby both left the game and did not return. But each should return to action at some point this season, although Gase did not have any details on their availability for Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Allen said in the locker room that the injury was not serious and that he’s “day-to-day.”
Miami Herald sportswriters Armando Salguero and Barry Jackson contributed to this report.