The Dolphins hope Jerome Baker and DeVante Parker can return Sunday from injuries, but both players stopped short of saying they definitely would play at Buffalo.
Baker said he was “scared as [expletive]” about his knee injury sustained last Sunday against Atlanta but tests revealed nothing serious. “After the MRI, it was a big sigh of relief,” he said.
He said he hopes to play Sunday but doesn’t know for sure if he will.
Is there much discomfort? “Some days better, some days it’s not.”
Parker, who has missed three consecutive games with shoulder and hamstring injuries, said Thursday “I feel good” but stopped short of saying he definitely will play Sunday: “We have to wait and see what happens…. Injuries happen.”
Both Baker and Parker were limited in Thursday’s practice. So were cornerback Xavien Howard (shoulder/groin), cornerback Byron Jones (Achilles/groin), cornerback Noah Igbinoghene (knee/ankle), safety Brandon Jones (ankle) and center Greg Mancz (groin).
The Dolphins made Baker, Parker, Byron Jones and Howard available for interviews this week, which is a good sign about their status but no guarantee that they will play Sunday. Howard and Byron Jones played through their injuries last Sunday and are expected to play against Buffalo.
Two player on injured reserve (Will Fuller, Michael Deiter) are not yet physically ready to return.
Rookie linebacker Jaelan Phillips — who logged just 15 snaps against Atlanta partly because he was limited in practice last week because of an injury and partly because of game plan reasons — said Thursday: “I feel I need to do more. I need to continue to improve and play better. I feel I’m comfortable at this point. I just need to elevate my game.”
▪ With the Bills awaiting on Sunday, Jesse Davis said he took it very hard when he allowed the sack early in the Week 2 Buffalo game that sidelined Tua Tagovailoa for nearly four games with fractured ribs.
“Every time the QB gets hit I’m sitting there saying, ‘What the hell happened?’ That hurt me a lot,” Davis said. “I talked to Tua first. I spoke about it with my room. It’s my guy. My responsibility.”
Davis said the line’s communication has improved since that game, when Bills blitzers ran free on several occasions.
▪ Cornerback Xavien Howard, asked about his mindset approaching Tuesday’s trade deadline, pointed to his Dolphins shirt and said: “Miami Dolphins baby.” There’s no indication that Howard has been made available in trade talks.
Coaches with teams on a six-game losing streak have a choice: consistently castigate their players or try to be positive.
Brian Flores has attempted to strike a balance.
“I don’t think Flo has changed,” wide receiver Mack Hollins said. “How I always like to be coached is somebody who is consistent because if you get a guy that that is an ass when you are losing and is this upbeat guy when you are winning, it turns into poor coaching. And we don’t have that.
“We have a coach that is going to stay consistent. He’s going to stay on us when we’re losing. He’s going to stay on us when we’re winning. That’s what I like. Obviously I can’t speak for everybody on the team but for me, that encourages me as a player that I’m going to get the same rules when I’m playing really well as when I play poorly.”
Hollins said Flores has remained upbeat, even while being honest about mistakes being made.
“When you start losing games, it’s easy to get in that sulking ‘boo-hoo’ kind of mood,” Hollins said. “But it’s important to make sure you still have high energy because once you see the top dog quit, after the lead dog, everybody else is going to follow. He’s continued to stay at a high level so we have to.”
Christian Wilkins said “there has been good energy around the building – everybody, not just players [but] coaches” too.
Any sadness or melancholy around the team amid a 1-6 start? Cornerback Byron Jones said no.
“There’s a sense of urgency to get it right,” Jones said. “No one ever comes into the season thinking you’re going to have a six-game losing streak. No one envisioned this. We didn’t want this. But let’s dig ourselves out. You see flashes of good football, but you make mistakes in critical situations where it’s too hard to overcome.”
Cornerback Nik Needham spoke of the importance of “trying to pick each other up” emotionally and to “try to get more people to keep doing extra work to make that one extra play that will help win the game. If you can do that, that can help try to change things around but it’s definitely a hard task to do.”
▪ Robert Hunt has played seven games at right guard after finishing last season at right tackle. Does Hunt know which position he’s better at?
“I don’t think I’m where I want to be overall, as a player yet, up to my standard,” he said. “I can play both positions. [Run blocking and pass protection] can be improved. I’ve done some good things at both, if I’m being honest. But there are definitely some things I can improve on. A lot of things.”