The notion of beleaguered Dallas Thomas starting ahead of Dolphins rookie first-round pick Laremy Tunsil at left guard this season seems difficult to fathom. But Thomas has lined up ahead of Tunsil to open team drills in the first two days of the team’s mandatory minicamp, and coach Adam Gase said no player will simply be handed a position.
“You’ve got to earn your spot,” Gase said when asked if Tunsil will be a starter. “I don’t think you’ve seen anyone get plugged in and anointed anything. If you’re a veteran player, a lot of guys respect that because they know it’s not going to be handed to anybody.
“Same on defense. I know [cornerback] Tony Lippett isn’t going to be like, ‘Yeah, you take it’ [with second-round rookie Xavien Howard]. … If he’s the starter, great. We’ll be happy. Then I just know we got three really good players there at corner.”
Gase said he doesn’t ask offensive line coach Chris Foerster “who do you have starting today…. We will keep running guys in there.”
Thomas has given up a lot of sacks and pressures in 36 games over three seasons, including 25 starts.
He was beaten by Earl Mitchell in Wednesday’s practice, forcing a Ryan Tannehill incompletion. But Thomas said Foerster has “been telling me I’m doing a good job.”
Thomas also has been getting work at right guard, where Billy Turner has received many of the first-team snaps.
Thomas believes he will be more stout because “I gained a little bit of weight, but more muscle than anything. I wanted to be stronger.”
Rookie running back Kenyan Drake limped to the locker room after pulling up in a punt blocking drill. Drake grabbed the back of his right leg with what appeared to be a hamstring injury.
He had a slew of injuries at Alabama: a dislocated ankle, cracked rib, sprained ankle, concussion, quad contusion and a broken right arm.
▪ Matt Moore admitted Wednesday that at one point, he doubted he would return to the Dolphins as their backup quarterback. Before re-engaging his agent in serious contract talks, the Dolphins brought in Brandon Weeden for a visit and booked a visit with Luke McCown, who canceled to re-sign with the Saints.
Meanwhile, Moore visited the Dallas Cowboys. Then Miami summoned Moore for a visit early in free agency.
“I came in [to Dolphins offices] for a free agent visit, which I thought was odd,” he said. “I came in and met the coaches, the new people here. That was the day I signed. A part of me thought I wouldn’t be back.”
Gase said offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen and quarterbacks coach Bo Hardegree both advocated Moore’s return.
“He has done a great job,” Gase said. “I think he has a winning record, and I don’t know how many backup quarterbacks you can say that [about].”
Moore has a 13-12 record in 25 career starts: 6-6 with Miami and 7-6 with Carolina.
▪ Receiver DeVante Parker returned to team drills after missing two weeks with an undisclosed injury.
“We’ve really been missing him,” said Tannehill, who connected with Parker for a 20-plus yard competition against Howard. “He’s such a talented player, and we want to develop him further. He really makes us more dynamic on offense.”
▪ Former University of Miami and Indianapolis Colts star receiver Reggie Wayne attended practice and spoke to the receivers.
Former Dolphins/Patriots/Broncos receiver Wes Welker also has been helping the receivers, rookie receiver Leonte Carroo said.
Asked whether Welker might join the staff, Gase said: “When he wants to come around, he’s welcome. Whether it goes any further than that, it’s a day by day thing with Wes. He knows I’ll always have his back in whatever he wants to do.”
▪ Receiver AJ Cruz and linebacker Neville Hewitt remain sidelined with injuries, and defensive ends Mario Williams and Jason Jones weren’t in attendance because of pre-approved personal reasons.