MIAMI GARDENS — Dolphins fans will have to wait a bit longer than expected to see their top two cornerbacks suit up together.
Coach Mike McDaniel announced Wednesday that Byron Jones will not be getting back as soon as was hoped. Jones has been on the physically unable to perform list (PUP), which kept him inactive for the first four games of the season after undergoing Achilles surgery in the offseason. He’ll remain on the list for at least another week.
Also, McDaniel said cornerback Xspanvien Howspanrd is day-to-day with a groin injury suffered in the loss to the Bengals on Sept. 29. Howard has started all four games.
If both are out, the starting cornerbacks could be Nik Needham and Keion Crossen (if he’s healthy), Kader Kohou or even Eric Rowe, who could slide back to corner from safety if Miami needs experience.
This week would have been Jones’ first opportunity to get back on the practice field. But McDaniel said Jones is not ready to enter the 21-day practice window that could eventually lead to his return to the 53-man roster.
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“We’re still going to take our time with it,” McDaniel said of Jones’ injury. “It’s not progressing as fast as we obviously have hoped from the spring into the summer, but there hasn’t been any major setback or anything. We mean what we say when we say ‘I won’t put a dude on the field unless he has complete stability.’ There’s too many other risks that can happen if around other people so we’ll keep addressing that and that could change, because again, it hasn’t had to do with a major setback.”
Once Jones’ 21-day window is activated, the Dolphins, at the end of that time frame, will have the option to elevate him to the 53, keep him on the PUP list for the remainder of the year or release him.
Howard left last Thursday’s game against the Bengals in the second half and was later seen on the sideline with an intricate wrap on his thigh. He already had been slowed by injuries and had given up big plays. He was absent from Wednesday’s practice along with fellow corner Keion Crossen.
“[Howard] is gonna be day-to-day,” McDaniel said. “He’s gonna do everything in his power to play against the Jets on Sunday.”
Last season Howard and Jones both started 16 games opposite and combined for 108 tackles, 26 pass break ups, three forced fumbles and five interceptions, the latter all by Howard.
Tua Tagovailoa, in concussion protocol, hanging around team
While quarterback Tua Tagovailoa remains in the concussion protocol following his head injury against the Bengals, it has not kept him away from the team.
Tagovailoa, who’s already been ruled out against the Jets, has tried to remain as engaged as possible while not being able to participate in practice. McDaniel is more than happy to have him around the building as long as it doesn’t have a negative impact on his recovery.
“At this point he’s in the protocol and the only thing it’s about is the health of the human being,” McDaniel said. “So, it’s a change of routine for him. He loves football and loves being around his teammates. It’s another example of us having to have honest, forthright communication with the medical staff, but he’ll be around as long as it doesn’t adversely affect him.
“He’s a captain of this team and we want him to be present as much as he can but not at any sort of cost to his process of getting himself healthy and going through that procedure.”
Having ruled out Tagovailoa on Monday for Sunday’s game raised some questions about the optics of the situation, since he was ruled out so far ahead of time. Once again, McDaniel made it clear that the health of players took priority over anything else, including outside influence and the swirling media attention and criticism that has hit the organization since Tagovailoa’s initial injury against the Bills on Sept. 18.
“The second that I start doing things because I think it’s some answer that somebody else wants, that [says] to me that I’m failing at my job,” McDaniel said. “My job should start and end at what’s the best thing for the team and everybody involved. It will always be about individual players first, because that’s in my title, it’s coach.
“… So, no, that’s not really my speed [worrying about optics]. I feel like it’s very vital to the integrity of my position that I stay true, right, wrong or indifferent, to whatever decision, but it’s done for the right reasons. And I won’t stray from that.”