Wide receiver DeVante Parker still is anxiously waiting to make his season debut, but he said he benefited significantly from being kept out of the game against the New York Jets last Sunday.
"Yes, big difference," Parker said Thursday.
Head Coach Adam Gase declined to say definitively that Parker would be making his first appearance of the 2018 regular season against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, but did say he likes where Parker is in his progress.
"I feel like he's in a good place right now," Gase said. "I think just really taking a step back and getting healthy and staying engaged in everything, it's helped him. I love how his attitude has been since he's really been back practicing with us. His energy level and his legs look great, as far as running. He's had a good four days when he's practiced."
Parker said there are no limitations as to what he can after the finger injury that cost him most of the preseason, but that Gase told him before the Jets game he wanted to give him some extra healing time.
The 2015 first-round pick made no secret of the fact he's anxious to get going.
Asked about his level of eagerness to play his first game this season, Parker said: "It's very high. Missing, what, two games? Missing the first two games, I'm just ready to get back out there whenever that chance is."
Reshad improves: Safety Reshad Jones was a limited participated in practice Thursday, an encouraging sign after he sat out the previous day because of a shoulder injury. "Him going out there, that's a positive step for us," Gase said. "We'll go through the rest of the week. This is a big one day at a time for him. I know how he feels about making sure that he's there every Sunday. We just want him to take the proper steps and listen to the trainers. Just make sure he's doing all of the little things right and listening to what those guys are telling him."
Ballage biding his time: While rookies Minkah Fitzpatrick, Mike Gesicki, Jerome Baker, Durham Smythe, Cornell Armstrong and Jason Sanders all have made their NFL debut already, fourth-round pick Kalen Ballage is still waiting for his chance. Ballage showed promise in training camp and the preseason despite missing time because of a concussion, but he finds himself in a situation where the Dolphins have a ton of depth at his position. Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore have split time in the backfield on offense, while newcomer Brandon Bolden and Senorise Perry have contributed on special teams, leaving Ballage inactive for the first two games. "It's frustrating obviously because I want to be out there, but other than that, we're 2-0 right now," Ballage said. "We're winning football games. That's what's most important. When I have my opportunity to go out there and make plays, then I'll be ready for it. … Every day I want to come in here and just get a little bit better. When my time comes and my number is called, it's not going to be like some big surprise or anything when hopefully I'm out there making plays and stuff. That's the plan." Gase said Ballage has been doing well in practice and just needs to focus on getting better. "He's in there, he has a smile on his face," Gase said. "He's ready to go if he's called on. He wants to play. You can tell with the way he practices. Every day he walks out there and there's a statement with the way that he runs and thuds guys up and the way he works extremely hard on special teams to just keep trying to show those guys, 'Hey, I'm ready to go when I'm called upon.' It's not an easy thing, especially for a young player — a rookie — to not be active, but I think he's done a great job of handling this. We keep seeing him get better every day. You're always hoping that everybody stays healthy. It's just the NFL. You're going to have guys here and there that go down and you just need everybody to be ready to go."
Running back respect: Frank Gore and Marshawn Lynch are two of the four active running backs with at least 10,000 career rushing yards, and they share something else in common in that both played a long time in the NFC West. It's probably not surprising then that Gore said Thursday that he and Lynch are friends. "That's my man," Gore said. "Marshawn is my man. He's a friend of mine. I love the way he plays the game of football. I'm happy that he came back because I knew that he still could play the game. I'm happy a dude who came in back when I came in is still going. That's a plus for us." While they have similarities in their running styles in that both are tough to bring down, their personalities are vastly different, with Gore a quiet guy and Lynch somebody who's known to stir things up. "We're cool," Gore said. "But I'm more laid-back. I just come to work and work. Yeah, we're different. Marshawn is Marshawn. I respect the way he plays the game. He plays the game the right way. We both do. I'm proud of what he's doing and he'd probably say the same (about me)."
Smith situation: Safety Maurice Smith is back on the active roster after a roller-coaster ride that included being among the cuts when the Dolphins got down to the 53-player limit and then being signed to the practice squad. Smith made the team as a rookie free agent last year before his season ended prematurely because of a stomach issue. "I think it's more of an introduction to the NFL, just seeing how one week you think you're there, you think you got it, then the next week something happens, something goes down and you take a step back," Smith said. "I think it's a very humbling process and it opens your eyes to see that nothing is given and nothing is 100 percent. You've always got to keep staying in your book and just making sure you're ready." Smith was promoted to the active roster Tuesday to fill the opening created when veteran guard Josh Sitton was placed on injured reserve. Smith said he got advice from some of the veterans on the team after returning to the practice squad about preparing as though he were a starter. "I was surprised (about getting waived), but at the same time I figured the coaches made the right decision for the team and I felt I just had to go through that and as long as we're winning, I'm happy," Smith said. "And now I'm glad to be back to contribute to the team. It was relief just to see that my efforts had paid off and then at the same time, it wasn't a surprise (being promoted). I knew I should have been here the whole time, so I just used it as confidence to get back on the field."