Thomas Proves To Be A Fast Healer

Posted Dec 9, 2013

Resilient running back delivered a memorable performance.

Less than a week ago, Miami Dolphins running back Daniel Thomas didn’t appear close to being ready to play in yesterday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers while still recovering from a severe ankle injury.

How quickly things can change.

Today, Head Coach Joe Philbin and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman were answering questions about Thomas’ 105 rushing yards and one touchdown on 16 carries in Miami’s 34-28 win over the Steelers at Heinz Field. It was the third-year back’s 55-yard run late in the fourth quarter in the snow that set up quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s game-winning 12-yard touchdown pass to tight end Charles Clay.

“On Wednesday we really never envisioned him even playing this week,” said Sherman, who mid-game had to make Thomas his primary option after Lamar Miller left with a concussion. “That’s a credit to our training staff and to him to be able to get him on the field, and then he did some things on Friday that we thought he might have a chance. Then he just kept getting better and went out there and did what he did, so he was certainly a critical part of the win on Sunday.”

Most running backs that suffered the type of ankle injury Thomas suffered a couple weeks ago against the Carolina Panthers likely would have been done for the season. Of course he has experience with coming back from injuries having done so both as a rookie and again last season.

So the former Kansas State star and second-round draft pick of Miami’s in 2011 made it a priority of his to get back quickly, picking up extra motivation from media reports that had him finished prematurely. He was used sparingly in the first half but answered the bell when he was called upon after Miller’s injury.

“I didn’t know if I was going to play this week. Being able to come back and play was a blessing,” said Thomas, whose only other 100-yard rushing performance came in his NFL debut on September 18th, 2011 against Houston. “Since I didn’t know if I was playing or not I spent last week working out with the trainers. I felt good doing that, so I was able to play. The offensive line did a great job opening the holes for me so I could get those tough yards.”

Thomas had just nine yards on three carries in the first half before finding his groove over the final 30 minutes in front of a hostile crowd. He nearly broke two more big runs in the third quarter were it not for Pittsburgh’s Cameron Heyward figuring out that his jersey was loose enough in the back to grab onto and fling him to the ground.

Miami got the ball to start the second half and Thomas finished off an efficient 80-yard scoring drive with a 4-yard touchdown run, starting to his left and then cutting it back to the right where there were no defenders to prevent him from waltzing into the end zone. The fact that he could make that hard of a cut on a slick field and then do it again on his big 55-yard run when he turned Steelers safety Ryan Clark completely around was a testament to his preparation and left a lasting impression on Sherman considering the circumstances.

“I think he was very diligent in his rehab and our training staff did an excellent job and a certain amount of mental toughness plays a part in it,” Sherman said. “He wasn’t 100 percent but he played as if he was. I would say with players it’s one thing to play with some pain but it’s another thing to play well with some pain. He certainly played well and certainly I doubt very much that he was 100 percent.”

Thomas has six days to get himself closer to 100 percent in time for the Dolphins’ pivotal home game against the New England Patriots at Sun Life Stadium.
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