Dolphins taking interesting approach with Chubb, Phillips rehabs; rule changes on docket at NFL meeting

ORLANDO — When it comes to having star players recover from a major injury, Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel may want to stick with an approach that has already worked.

So in hoping edge defenders Bradley Chubb and Jaelan Phillips can return ahead of schedule from ACL and Achilles tears, respectively, he may just want to take the same measure as with cornerback Jalen Ramsey last season, avoid a timeline all together.

“Remember that line I was talking to you all season with Jalen Ramsey, about no timelines?” McDaniel began Monday morning at the NFL annual meeting at the Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott Grande Lakes. “I think that worked well. No timelines, and he came back faster than you guys thought.

“It’s also, from a psychological standpoint, you don’t want people to chase the wrong things. I bring Jalen Ramsey up because both of those two individuals, Bradley Chubb and Jaelan Phillips, are extreme versions of, ‘Hey, we need to make sure they’re not chasing a timeline.’ Because, as competitors, they will achieve that timeline, and it might be at the worst for their body.”

All that said, McDaniel has been encouraged by where the two stand after Phillips tore his Achilles on Nov. 24 against the Jets and Chubb an ACL in a knee on Dec. 31 versus the Ravens.

“They have been doing phenomenal,” McDaniel said. “We’ve had to mandate that they have a week off of rehab just recently — both of them — because they literally live there. They have pseudo-tape-on-the-floor parking spots for their little scooters that they’ve graduated from. And they’re both really doing exactly what you’d expect from those two individuals, which is absolutely attacking that process, but doing it from a perspective of they don’t want to get healthy for one week; they want to get healthy for a whole season.”

When together, the two form one of the league’s top pass-rushing duos from opposite edges. With the possibility that they each start training camp in late July on the physically-unable-to-perform list, which could affect their availability for the start of the season, Miami lost fellow outside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel in free agency. The Dolphins did, however, sign former Pro Bowl edge rusher Shaquil Barrett to fill in as needed and form a rotation when all are healthy.

Ramsey tore the meniscus in a knee early in training camp last July after being traded to Miami from the Los Angeles Rams. He made it back onto the field for the Oct. 29 game against the New England Patriots.

New kickoff proposal

The NFL and its owners are voting on an amended kickoff at the league’s annual meeting in Orlando.

The changes involve a “landing zone” for kicks between the receiving team’s goal line and 20-yard line, keeps kickoffs at the kicking team’s 35-yard line but brings the remaining 10 players on that side to line up at the opponent’s 40-yard line while the receiving team mostly lines up in a “setup zone” between the 35- and 30-yard lines as a maximum of two returners can be in the landing zone.

“This has been a work in progress. It’s been, ‘how can I make the play safer and more exciting?’” said New Orleans Saints special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi, one of the two to orchestrate the proposal, along with the Dallas Cowboys’ John Fassel.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if anything happened. I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets voted in, tabled. That’s above our pay grade.”

Rizzi, who was with the Dolphins from 2010 through 2018, said there were 1,970 touchbacks in the NFL last season and 92 fair catches, for a total of more than 2,000 instances of inactivity on kickoffs.

“It’s gotten to a point where returns were at an all-time low last year, return rate. It’s become a non-play,” Rizzi said. “We know that it’s one of those things that’s under the microscope every year because the injury rate is what it is, a little bit higher on special teams plays.”

Opponents of the rule change contend that the new setup takes away the surprise onside kick element, since teams attempting on an onside kick have to make their intentions clear and line up differently.

Rizzi counters that there were only two surprise onside kicks last season and the 2018 rule changes make it difficult to recover one anyway.

“We’re not taking out a major part of the game,” Rizzi said. “Back when the Saints recovered the one in the Super Bowl, the rules were totally different. You could have a running start, the kick formations were different. You don’t see them anymore because of the way the rules are.”

Rizzi is not a fan of the fourth-and-20 idea to retain possession after a score because, on a kickoff, there is no penalty on the receiving team that can give the kicking team the ball. With a fourth-and-20 play, various defensive penalties can result in an automatic first down.

Several AFC coaches voiced approval for the amendment Monday morning, one being Andy Reid of the Kansas City Chiefs.

“It’s going to be interesting and exciting if it passes,” Reid said. “I like the idea. I’m for it.”

Hip-drop tackle banned

The league, on Monday, banned hip-drop tackles, a controversial technique of tackling that has resulted in an uptick of lower body injuries.

It’s another change that won’t be popular with defenders, giving them another obstacle in playing defense as many of the NFL’s rule alterations over time have favored the offense.

Posted safety Jevon Holland on X: “Breaking news: Tackling Banned.”

This story will be updated.