Barry Jackson

Four Dolphins starters injured; Phillips with a revelation; Dolphins’ Goodell meeting fallout

New York Jets defensive back Terrence Brooks (23) and free safety Marcus Maye (26) celebrate after Miami Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker (11) is short of a first on a fourth down attempt in the fourth quarter as the New York Jets host the Miami Dolphins at Met Life Stadium on Sunday, September 24, 2017.
New York Jets defensive back Terrence Brooks (23) and free safety Marcus Maye (26) celebrate after Miami Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker (11) is short of a first on a fourth down attempt in the fourth quarter as the New York Jets host the Miami Dolphins at Met Life Stadium on Sunday, September 24, 2017. adiaz@miamiherald.com

A six-pack of Dolphins notes on a Wednesday:

• Four Dolphins starters couldn’t participate in any of practice Wednesday, including two surprises.

Receiver DeVante Parker (ankle) remains out, and center Mike Pouncey cannot practice because he’s in concussion protocol after sustaining one on Sunday against Atlanta.

But defensive end Andre Branch (knee) and cornerback Xavien Howard (ankle) also didn’t practice at all.

If Branch cannot play, that would mean more playing time for William Hayes and Charles Harris against the Jets. If Howard cannot play, Alterraun Verner likely would play more.

Meanwhile, receiver Rashawn Scott, off a broken foot in June, said he did everything in Wednesday’s practice, the first one he was permitted to partake in accordance with the league’s PUP rules. Miami can bring him back anytime in the next three weeks. Scott said coaches have given him no idea when he will be activated.

• Jordan Phillips needs to play well this year for the Dolphins to be convinced he’s part of the future. (He’s due to make a reasonable $1.4 million next season.)

And even though he missed three games with an ankle injury, Adam Gase indicated Wednesday he has been impressed when he has played – including 21 mostly impactful snaps against Atlanta.

"I see a guy who every snap he’s out there, he’s playing hard," Gase said of a player who has been knocked at times in the past for having an erratic motor. "It was really impressive last week to see – in that second half, especially. He made two or three plays right in a row. It’s just good to have him back out there – a guy that size with that kind of movement skills and to see how excited his is to be back out there.

"He has been doing it really since that Philly week [in preseason]. He has just been doing such a good job of practice day in and day out. Everything has been consistent. He’s just doing everything right, and it’s showing up on game day. For him to go back out there – his first game back out there – and play as well as he did, that was a good thing for us."

Phillips told me Wednesday that coaches told him this past offseason that he needed to show better body language.

"I was told to fix it by coaches," he said. "If I made a play [before], I was even-keeled."

He said coaches told him to show more enthusiasm, which he displayed with a demonstrative reaction after making a couple big plays Sunday.

Why is that important? "I feel like we’re a very emotional group and we all feed off that," he said. "Emotions are key to our defense."

Phillips said he has dropped from 336 pounds last season to 323 but it’s too early to say how much that has helped.

"I’m trying to bring energy to the team," he said.

• Based on allocation of playing time, it’s clear the Dolphins have more trust in Damien Williams than Kenyan Drake at the moment.

So what must Drake do to change that?

"He has just got to embrace the role that he has right now," Gase said. "And then when we get opportunities and we put him in a game where if something happens to where we’ve got to put him in for Jay Ajayi, just be right. Just do your job, run hard and protect the football and (take) what’s there – try not to hit the home run every time you’re in there. I think that’s the hardest thing when you’re spot playing. You want to make a big impact play.

"Really, that’s the hardest thing for a young player to do is understand it’s not always going to be a 60-yard touchdown. Sometimes four or six yards is good enough."

Drake said Wednesday that he’s not frustrated. "Any role I get, I know I’ve got to make plays."

• Wasn’t Ajayi supposed to be better as a receiver? He had two drops against Atlanta and Gase said there’s a reason.

"I know he’s a little frustrated because we talked about getting the ball out quicker and he’s just a little slow getting his head around," Gase said. "Then the other one he had, when he ran out in the flat, he knew the defender was close and he was trying to catch that thing, drop his shoulder and turn up the field.

"The hardest thing sometimes is just realizing that you do need to look it in. You need to catch the ball first and just trust the fact that he’s a powerful runner and he’ll run through contact more times than not. I know that’s frustrating to him because he’s worked so hard to make sure that he’s a reliable receiver for us."

• Julius Thomas, Michael Thomas and Kenny Stills all expressed optimism on Wednesday after joining 10 other NFL players in a Tuesday meeting with 11 NFL owners and commissioner Roger Goodell. The sides talked face-to-face about the issues fueling the national anthem protest debate that has roiled the league.

Stills said another meeting is scheduled.

With the Dolphins requiring players who are on the field to stand for the national anthem, Stills and Julius Thomas said they would continue to remain in the locker-room or tunnel instead. Michael Thomas was non-committal.

Julius Thomas said the "best way" to raise awareness of social issues at the root of their protest remains through not standing for the anthem. But he added "we’re hopeful through working with the owners that we’ll be able to find ways to have a great impact. You see a commitment to find viable answers."

Stills called Tuesday’s meeting a "constructive conversation. We have another meeting scheduled and are trying to put a game plan together to start taking some active steps in the future."

Michael Thomas said he couldn’t give details on those potential steps but "it was interesting to hear a lot of the owners' perspective. It was very constructive, very positive. Moving forward, you're going to see a lot of solutions, and us working toward something very positive in the future…. Without talking too much in detail, a lot is going to get resolved just us working together. Changing the narrative where people thinks it's owners vs. player, players against the country and the flag. That message is going to become clear. Awareness is now at an all time high.Now it's about actions."

The NFL is not changing its national anthem policy to require players to stand. Goodell said Wednesday that the league and its teams "believe everyone should stand for the national anthem. It's an important part of the game."

Asked about owners who threatened discipline for players who don’t stand for the anthem, Goodell said that was never discussed among the owners this week.

• Fox is sending Sunday’s game to 14 percent of the country but very little of Florida. Here’s a regionalization map.

I talked to UM’s Malik Rosier today about how he reacted when Mark Richt told him that Rosier couldn’t play for him. Here’s a look at UM’s unbeaten starting QB.

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