Center Jake Grove will miss Sunday's game between the Dolphins and Patriots, barring a sudden and unexpected recovery from a high ankle sprain and tibia injury, a club source said Thursday.
It is also possible Grove, who already missed a start against Buffalo last week after suffering the injury against Carolina the week before, will miss time beyond Sunday. Although the Dolphins have opted not to place Grove on the injured reserve list, the worst-case scenario is he could be out through the end of the season.
The club is hopeful it will not come to that. But a high ankle sprain typically takes four to six weeks to heal depending on its severity. Grove has already been out two weeks because the injury happened during a Thursday night game on Nov. 18.
Some players are able to get back on the field quicker due, in part, to their tolerance for pain and the positions they play. A center is more likely to be able to play with the injury than a player who has to perform in space. So that is a plus.
The tibia injury, however, complicates matters in weighing recovery time.
With Grove out, the Dolphins are expected to continue starting Joe Berger at center. Berger started in Grove's place against the Bills.
“I thought Joe Berger played very well yesterday, I really did," coach Tony Sparano said Monday when asked to assess Berger's performance. "Really pleased with what he did."
Grove did not practice at all last week and did not practice Wednesday when the Dolphins began preparations for the Patriots. Sparano was asked about the center's condition and responded, “Did not practice today, getting a little bit better."
Not having Grove hurts the Dolphins because he was signed as an unrestricted free agent, in part, because he played well last season for the Oakland Raiders against AFC East nose tackles. The Dolphins were said to be particularly impressed with his performance against Kris Jenkins of the New York Jets.
New England nose tackle Vince Wilfork is one of the most versatile players on the Patriots front line and is perhaps the team's best run-stopper.
Grove's injury is a setback and a disappointment because he came to the Dolphins to upgrade the running game. The Dolphins signed Grove to a five-year, $29.5 million contract that includes $14.5 million in guaranteed money.
But Grove also came to Miami with a reputation for being injured. He missed six games because of injuries in 2005. He missed nine games in 2007. He missed four games in 2008. The only season in which Grove did not miss any games came in 2006 when he started all 16 for Oakland.