Miami Dolphins cornerback Byron Jones was not activated off the physically-unable-to-perform list on Tuesday and placed on the reserve/PUP list.
Jones will now be forced to sit the Dolphins’ first four games of the 2022 regular season after being held out of training camp and the team’s three preseason exhibitions.
Jones underwent lower left leg surgery this offseason and has taken longer than expected to recover.
“It really was just working through the process with him, just letting him take his time, go through the rehab work,” Dolphins general manager Chris Grier said on Tuesday in a joint press conference with coach Mike McDaniel addressing the team’s cuts to get down to a 53-man active roster. “Like everything, he had good days and bad days. … We’re just being patient, not putting pressure on him to rush him back.
“He was still optimistic about hopefully being here in a couple of weeks, but [that wouldn’t have been] fair. You can’t rush him out there with this. We just want to make sure he’s ready and right when he comes back.”
Grier added the team may look to add a cornerback but not with particular urgency.
“Like everything, we’ll be searching the waiver wire [Tuesday and into Wednesday], but for us, we feel good about the group we have,” he said. “That’s not a position, right now, we feel is critical for us.”
When McDaniel last updated Jones’ status on Sunday, he said the team had Tuesday “pinpointed” as the date for a potential return to the roster, “but it’s a fluid situation that has to do with him and a lot of other players.”
In his two seasons with the Dolphins, Jones has two interceptions in 30 starts with 95 total tackles and a pair of forced fumbles.
The Dolphins will be without their No. 2 cornerback for a tough four-game stretch to open the season against the New England Patriots, at the Baltimore Ravens, home against the Buffalo Bills and at the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Dolphins have All-Pro Xavien Howard, Nik Needham, Keion Crossen, Noah Igbinoghene and undrafted rookie Kader Kohou as cornerbacks that made the team’s 53-man active roster on Tuesday, the NFL’s cut-down day. Safeties Eric Rowe and Elijah Campbell are also capable of playing cornerback.
Having Howard and Jones on the boundary and Needham available to cover the slot in man-to-man coverage is critical to the Dolphins’ blitz-heavy defense where extra linebackers and safeties are often rushing the passer.
Crossen signed with the Dolphins this offseason as a special teams ace, but he often impressed throughout camp with his pass coverage defensively. Igbinoghene, a first-round pick in 2020 who hasn’t seen much of the field in his first two NFL seasons, did not take advantage of his increased preseason opportunities with Jones out and Howard often sitting. Kohou is an upstart undrafted rookie out of Texas A&M-Commerce who could serve as Needham’s backup nickel corner, where he started in the preseason finale with Needham on the boundary.
Beyond Jones’ absence, the Dolphins’ cornerback depth in camp was devastated by the losses of Trill Williams and Mackensie Alexander following back-to-back exhibitions against the Buccaneers and Raiders. Alexander was signed in reaction to Williams’ season-ending knee ailment.
On Gesicki trade talks
Grier denied that the Dolphins ever reached out to other teams to initiate trade conversations over tight end Mike Gesicki, although he said the team fielded calls from two teams interested.
“We did not make any calls on Mike,” Grier said. “We had calls from two teams that reached out to us about Mike. We never made any phone calls about him. Mike was going to be here, and I think everyone made a big deal about him being on the field. But Mike’s a competitive kid. He has been challenged to do some things he hadn’t been asked to do before, and he stepped up.”
The question was raised after a Pro Football Focus report last week said Gesicki’s name was “brought up” in trade conversations amid a preseason where Gesicki is learning a new offense. A source told the South Florida Sun Sentinel then that the report wasn’t true.
“Each and every day, he’s doing one or two things better to his standard of the way he wants his football to look,” McDaniel said of Gesicki. “That’s all you can ask for.”
Tuesday practice report
Among the Dolphins not practicing in the part open to the media were Howard, wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, Rowe, Crossen, Needham, linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel, and tight end Tanner Conner.
McDaniel doesn’t typically reveal injuries. But Van Ginkel had his appendix removed last week, Conner has been wearing a brace on his left knee, and Waddle has been seen with a sleeve on his right leg and his right ankle taped.
Needham had been battling a hand injury. He went into the locker room briefly during Saturday’s preseason finale against Philadelphia but returned to the sideline.
— Grier spoke for the first time since the NFL handed down a penalty for Dolphins tampering violations surrounding pursuit of quarterback Tom Brady and coach Sean Payton.
Grier declined to comment in detail on Tuesday, stating: “It really doesn’t affect how we do business around here.”
The Dolphins, along with having owner Steve Ross fined and suspended, were docked a 2023 first-round draft pick and 2024 third-round selection.