DAVIE–The Dolphins are evaluating star running back Jay Ajayi for a concussion after he took several hard hits this morning.
Ajayi left training camp with team medical staff after being knocked to the ground by safety T.J. McDonald. Lawrence Timmons and Ndamukong Suh made solid impact early in the practice as well, and Miami was waiting on additional test results as of this afternoon.
It was an unfortunate break for the Dolphins on their first day in full pads with real tackling.
“You’re not going to win either way,” coach Adam Gase said. “If we don’t go live, you guys write that we don’t work on tackling. If we do go live and somebody gets hurt, then you say we shouldn’t.
“We feel like that’s best for our football team. We needed to go live and tackle. It’s football.”
Ajayi, 24, has not had any documented concussions in his two-plus years in the NFL and does not appear to have sustained any while at Boise State.
McDonald didn’t think his hit was anything out of the ordinary and said simply, “It’s going to happen.”
The Dolphins have a day off before resuming training camp Wednesday morning, and the first preseason game isn’t until Aug. 10. The regular season opens a full month after that, so even if Ajayi has a concussion, it’s unlikely to impact his availability for real games.
Nonetheless, this incident underscores how valuable Ajayi is to Miami. He made the jump from afterthought to centerpiece last season while rushing for 1,272 yards and eight touchdowns to earn a spot in the Pro Bowl.
Once he established himself as the starter, he played between 64 and 85 percent of the offensive snaps every week. He got 260 carries last year, and Gase is hoping to get him closer to 25 attempts per game (that computes to 400 in 16 weeks) this season.
If healthy, Ajayi figures to be among the most prominent figures in Miami’s offense this year. The Dolphins rebuilt their offensive line and will be looking for Ajayi to make things easier on Ryan Tannehill.
The running backs behind Ajayi are mostly unproven, at least as rushers.
While fourth-year veteran Damien Williams was a valuable, multi-faceted weapon last season, he has 87 career carries and has averaged 3.4 yards per attempt. Fellow backup Kenyan Drake got just 33 rushes as a rookie last season.
The Dolphins also have Senorise Perry, undrafted rookie De’Veon Smith and Storm Johnson (currently out with an injury) at running back. Perry, who has no NFL carries and has not appeared in a game since 2014, has the most experience of that trio.
At this point in the summer, there are few attractive free agent running backs still on the market. DeAngelo Williams, Reshad Jennings and Reggie Bush are among the most recognizable options. More players will become available when teams make roster cuts between now and the Sept. 2 deadline.
Williams, 34, filled in as a starter for Pittsburgh the first four weeks of last season and put up 265 yards and three touchdowns; Jennings had 593 yards and three touchdowns on 181 rushes; Bush, who played in Miami in 2011 and ’12, amazingly finished last season with minus-3 yards on 12 carries in Buffalo.
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