Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase on the sideline during a timeout late in the fourth quarter of the Pittsburgh Steelers' 30-12 win in the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on January 8, 2017. File photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo
DAVIE, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins Pro-Bowl running back Jay Ajayi, arguably the most important player on offense, was escorted off the practice field Monday during the Dolphins' first practice in full pads and is being evaluated for a possible concussion.
Clearly this isn't the way the Dolphins, who had a scheduled off day on Tuesday, wanted to cap their first five days of training camp.
But this is the way head coach Adam Gase wanted to conduct his camp. He wants physicality - the Dolphins finished 30th against the run last year -- and the players want it that way, too.
"Any time you get a little more contact," defensive end William Hayes said, "I think it heightens up the practice."
Ajayi, whose offseason work on receiving and route-running drew praise from coaches, took hits from safety T.J. McDonald, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and linebacker Lawrence Timmons during the early part of Monday's practice, the latter encounter causing Timmons to lose his helmet.
But it's unclear whether any of those plays was the cause of Ajayi leaving the field.
Gase, who vowed to have a more aggressive training camp this year, opted to tackle to the ground on the first day in full pads because he thought the Dolphins weren't prepared to tackle when they started the season 1-4 a year ago.
Gase didn't second-guess his decision.
"You're not going to win either way," Gase said. "If we don't go live, you guys write we're not going to work on tackling. If we do go live and somebody gets hurt, then you say we shouldn't have done that.
"You're going to be wrong either way. We feel like that's best for our football team. We need to go live and tackle. It's football."
Players agreed with Gase's decision and were eager to get the hitting going. McDonald acknowledged he put a big hit on Ajayi, but didn't think it was a big deal.
"I was just trying to thud him up and do my job," he said. "It's always good to have contact and it is football, so it's going to happen."
If Ajayi is forced to miss any amount of time, it will be up to backups Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams to carry the load.
Through his first year, Gase has been attentive to his players' well-being and conditioning. So it's likely if he thinks he needs to back off on the hitting, he'll make the adjustment.
But for now, Gase seems to be headed toward physicality, a decision based on not hitting in camp last year and how that showed on the field early in the season.
"We had a lot of missed tackles last year," Gase said. "It probably took us a while to really get going in the run game and pass protection, kind of that sense of urgency (you have) to have."
Gase is determined to prevent that this season.
--Wide receiver Jarvis Landry, known as much for his hot temper as being a two-time Pro-Bowl selection, was basically pulled from practice Monday after the offense and defense got into a scrum.
Landry, who has drawn a few flags thrown for unsportsmanlike conduct during his three-year career, was apparently involved in a scuffle that attracted perhaps a dozen players late in Monday's practice. It wasn't anything serious, but Gase decided to sit Landry.
"I mean we were having some scuffles and stuff," Gase said. "We were just getting him to cool down. You know how it gets out there when you get full pads and everybody gets going a little bit. We will be fine. He'll be alright."