Marshall latest injury hit to aching Dolphins
Brandon Marshall and Chad Pennington stood next to one another on the sideline during the third quarter, wearing T-shirts and caps, grim looks on their faces.
It was an image that perfectly sums up the collective mood - and health - of the Miami Dolphins these days.
Not only did the Dolphins lose 16-0 to the Chicago Bears on Thursday night, they lost two more starters. Marshall, the team's top receiver and on pace for the biggest year by a Miami wideout ever, left in the second quarter with an injured right hamstring. And Cory Procter, who started at center, left 6 minutes into the game with what appeared to be a serious injury to his lower left leg.
''We don't make excuses around here,'' safety Yeremiah Bell said. ''We know we've got guys who need to step up.''
Those woes came four days after the Dolphins lost Pennington for the season after just one throw Sunday against Tennessee, and later in that Titans game, starter-turned-backup Chad Henne departed with a left knee injury.
Adding insult to the injuries for Miami on Thursday was this: The Bears had nothing to do with either malady.
Procter was moving downfield when his leg suddenly gave out and caused him to crumble to the grass, where he remained for several minutes before needing help just to reach the sideline.
Marshall was twisting after making a catch near midfield shortly before halftime, and seemed to be reaching for the back of his leg even before hitting the ground. He was added to Miami's injury report on Wednesday with a hamstring problem.
''Some tightness,'' Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said. ''He came here today, worked out before the game, felt pretty good.''
It didn't last.
When Marshall returned after limping off, he was in street clothes, grabbing a spot next to Pennington on the sideline. Marshall tried clapping a couple times, though by night's end, he was just about the only person in Miami colors who found much reason to cheer about anything.
Miami also was without center Joe Berger (knee) and safety Chris Clemons (hamstring) on Thursday night. So losing Procter was significant, in that Richie Incognito - the third-string center - was pressed into duty. Incognito worked out as the backup center throughout the short week of preparation, just in case Procter went down.
Procter was scheduled for an MRI on Friday, if the swelling subsided in his leg - which was wrapped postgame in a blue brace that stretched from nearly his hip to his ankle.
He was holding out some hope that the injury was minor, but feared that wouldn't be the case.
''I made a hard cut and it just kind of extended itself,'' Procter said. ''That was my first time with that experience. Pretty crappy deal. It was extremely painful. That's probably one of the worst pains I've ever felt.''
Procter couldn't watch the game - the room he was getting treated in had no television - and couldn't pick up good enough signal on his cell phone to get updates that way, either.
He didn't miss much.
The Dolphins were shut out at home for the second time in the last 40 years, and dropped 2 1/2 games behind New England and the New York Jets - teams that have already beaten Miami once - in the AFC East. By night's end, the Dolphins were 5-5, with the 10th-best record in the AFC.
In Sparano's mind, the injuries are too easy to blame.
''Hey, listen, I mean, those are excuses,'' Sparano said. ''I'm not going to use them. I don't want my team to use them. It's the National Football League. Next guy's got to step up, and we didn't do that tonight.''