Miami Dolphins tight end Dustin Keller will miss the entire 2013 season with the knee injury he suffered in Miami's 24-17 loss to the Houston Texans on Saturday. The time Keller will lose was first reported by Alex Marvez of FOX Sports, and later confirmed by several sources. Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, Keller tore the anterior cruciate, medial collateral, and posterior cruciate ligaments in his right knee, and he also dislocated the knee on one play.
With 7:58 left in the second quarter, Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw a short pass to Keller, and Texans rookie defensive back D.J. Swearinger made the tackle. On the play, Keller's right knee bent sideways at a fairly gruesome angle, and he had to be carted off the field. Keller was clearly shaken after the injury, grasping his knee and visibly cursing as he was helped on to the cart.
It's especially bad timing for Keller, as he's currently on a one-year, $4.25 million contract with the Dolphins with $2.35 million of that guaranteed. The former Purdue standout, selected with the 30th overall pick by the New York Jets in the 2008 NFL draft, amassed 241 catches for 2,876 yards and 17 touchdowns for his first team over five seasons. But he missed eight games in 2012, and he took a one-year risk in free agency, turning down a multi-year contract offer from the Dolphins.
“My worth wasn’t where I think it was at," he told the Miami Herald in May. "So I took a gamble on myself and said I’m better than everyone thinks I am. This is where I want to be long-term. But I want to prove to them I’m better than last year.”
So far, he had been doing so in his new environment.
“He stretches the field down the middle, and that’s exciting for me," Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill said of Keller last Monday. "I have a big target who can use his body, go up and separate from linebackers and safeties and catches the ball well. That’s what you want from a guy moving downfield as a tight end.”
For Keller, the admiration has been mutual, which makes sense for a guy fresh out of the Jets' quarterback quagmire.
“His presence in the huddle, he just takes a professional approach to everything he does," Keller said of Tannehill in late July. "He’s not the most talkative guy, but he talks when need be. He has a great command of the huddle, and a great command of this offense.”
As for Swearinger, he told ESPN.com's Tania Ganguli that while he hopes Keller recovers quickly (he said that twice after the game), he had three helmet to helmet penalties when he played for South Carolina, and he's been conditioned to hit low as a result. Some believe that he took his helmet to Keller's knee in a way that was outside the rules, but there was no penalty on the play.
"With the rules in this era, you’ve got to hit low," Swearinger said. "If I would have hit him high, I would have gotten a fine. So I think I made the smartest play. I’m sorry it happened ... Right now it’s just instinct. You see somebody come across the middle, you gotta go low. You’re going to cost your team 15 yards. You’ve got to play within the rules."
Miami offensive tackle Tyson Clabo was not happy with Swearinger's methodology.
“If I did, he wasn’t listening," Clabo said, when asked if he said anything to Swearinger. "He was doing his little dance or whatever he was doing. Like I said, it’s not illegal. You can’t say that it’s dirty or whatever, but you just hate to see that situation.”
Tight end Michael Egnew, one of the players expected to get more reps now, spoke to the dilemma players go through when a friend in the same position group is lost for a long period of time. “He’s one of my good friends on the team. It messes me up, but like I said fortunately we have great quarterbacks and great back-up players. Everyone’s going to step up and fill the void.”