AP Sports Writer
DAVIE, Fla. (AP) – The Miami Dolphins limped to the end of training camp Tuesday, and it’s difficult to argue they’re better than when they started.
Even by NFL standards, injuries have taken a heavy toll, and the latest will sideline cornerback Tony Lippett for the entire season. Lippett tore his Achilles tendon during practice Monday and will need surgery.
“He jumped up and then came down,” coach Adam Gase said. “No one touched him. That was it.”
So it has gone for the Dolphins, who lost quarterback Ryan Tannehill for the season when he tore his left ACL on a scramble without being touched. Rookie Raekwon McMillan, projected to start at middle linebacker, is also out for the season after tearing his right ACL on his first play in the first exhibition game. And starting guard Ted Larsen is expected to miss much of the season with a torn right biceps.
“It hasn’t been easy,” Gase said.
Lippett, who started 13 games last year and had four interceptions, was expected to be the No. 3 cornerback behind Byron Maxwell and Xavien Howard. Walt Aikens, Alterraun Verner and rookie Cordrea Tankersley will compete to replace Lippett.
“Any time you lose a guy who started every game for you last year, that’s not ideal,” Gase said. “But that’s why we’ve collected the depth we have.”
The Dolphins decided they didn’t have enough depth at quarterback, so they coaxed veteran Jay Cutler out of retirement with a $10 million, one-year deal to replace Tannehill. Cutler will make his Dolphins debut when he starts Thursday’s exhibition game against Baltimore.
Other injuries have slowed preparations for the regular-season opener on Sept. 10. Pro Bowl running back Jay Ajayi was removed Tuesday from the concussion protocol, just as reserve running back Kenyan Drake entered it after being injured a day earlier.
Ajayi, who had a breakout season last year, missed two weeks of practice after being hurt in a non-contact drill.
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “You want to be out there with your teammates, practicing and grinding. It’s the time we’re all working on our craft to be better; but at the same time, it is better that it happened now during the preseason.”
The Dolphins have also been without five ailing receivers, although none is a starter.
As if conceding to the injury tsunami, Gase dialed back the intensity and switched to a short indoor walkthrough for the final training camp practice.
“We’ve been going pretty hard,” he said. “The guys have really been working in some pretty extreme temperatures at practice, and nobody said anything and just kept working. We had some guys banged up and fairly tired, and I just thought it was a good chance for us to get work in, but at the same time kind of rest them up a little bit.”
The Dolphins failed to meet perhaps the biggest goal of training camp, which is to stay healthy. But their second-year head coach said the most serious injuries have been the kind that can’t be prevented.
“We haven’t had a ton of soft tissue injuries, which really is the biggest thing you’re preparing for,” Gase said. “You do everything you can physically in the weight room, and try to prepare yourself, and try to schedule practice right, and not fatigue your guys to the point where their bodies are breaking down. But training camp is meant to be hard. It’s meant to harden you up. It’s meant to get you in condition. So you’re not going to prevent everything.”
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