The Miami Dolphins already know center Mike Pouncey, rehabilitating a hip injury that flared up last week, will not play Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. But the team is less certain about the status of two other offensive linemen whose status will ultimately determine exactly how makeshift the offensive line looks for the second consecutive game.
The team has been hopeful that Laremy Tunsil, dealing with a shoulder injury, might be able to play. Tunsil, who left last week’s game in the first half and didn’t return, has been able to practice on a limited basis this week. The team was actually encouraged he was able to do as much as he did in practice earlier this week.
So while it is not a sure thing Tunsil will play -- more like 60-40 that he does -- there are still significant hurdles to overcome before that happens.
“I just know it’s painful for him right now as far as whether it be contact or movement,” coach Adam Gase said.
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Tunsil is expected to wear a shoulder harness if he plays.
Where Tunsil plays, assuming he does, depends on the status of left tackle Branden Albert. Albert missed last week’s game following wrist surgery to correct a dislocation.
Albert has not practiced this week, before Friday. And his chance of playing is more 40-60 because there has been considerable swelling to the left hand needs to use against on-rushing defensive linemen. Unless the swelling goes down significantly in the next few days, Albert would be unable to function.
The team is hopeful that swelling will subside. Albert is eager for that to happen. But the likelihood the process can be sped up to meet the game day deadline is not good.
If both Albert and Tunsil can play, obviously Albert will be at left tackle and Tunsil at left guard. If only Tunsil can play, as is more likely, he would likely man the left tackle spot while Kraig Urbik starts at left guard. If neither play, Urbik would have to go to left guard and Sam Young would come in as the likely left tackle.
On another injury matter ... cornerback Xavien Howard continues to make progress toward getting back in the lineup. But he is not going to play on Sunday against San Francisco.
Howard practiced on an individual basis this week but that was his first practice in nearly seven weeks. The Dolphins are not going to throw him onto the field and ask him to compete unless and until Howard has multiple good practices at full speed -- where his confidence is rebuilt, and everyone is assured game speed would not cause him a setback in his return from a second knee surgery this year.
“I know when he feels comfortable, we’ll get him out there as far as really competing in practice and going against the wide outs,” Gase said. “I know next week, when we’re able to do one-on-ones and things like that, I’m sure he’ll start jumping in on things like that.”
The Dolphins are confident Howard will play again this season, barring a significant setback. That is not the case with defensive end Dion Jordan.
Jordan returned to practice for the first time in nearly two years -- following multiple drug suspensions and knee surgeries. But the amount of work he has to do to get back into game condition is so extensive, the Dolphins are not planning on using him this season.
“It’s a little bit of ... when you haven’t done anything in a long time and all of a sudden you get thrown in there and you have (defensive line coach Terrell Williams) and (senior assistant Jim Washburn) down there doing their drills, it gets pretty intense pretty fast,” Gase said. “We just have to take it day by day right now and see how he feels.”
Armando Salguero on Twitter @ArmandoSalguero