HOUSTON -- Dolphins coach Joe Philbin, who has a curious habit of not even fielding questions about injuries, had no choice late Saturday but answer questions about the right knee injury to tight end Dustin Keller.
Philbin said it is too early to determine the seriousness of Keller's injury, although sources within the team are fearing the worst. Philbin said he's hopeful the club gets Keller back sooner rather than later.
The mood in the locker room wasn't nearly so upbeat. Players saw the replay. Some heard Keller writhe in pain when he took defensive back D.J. Swearinger's helmet to the side of his knee. They saw Keller have to be helped up to get on a cart and leave the field via that cart.
"Really painful," receiver Brian Hartline said. "Guy worked his tail off. He was going to be a big part of our offense. It hurt. It's a shame. It's part of the game. There's not much you can do. It's part of playing the game. I'd like to see a higher tackle but you can't blame a guy for trying to make a play."
"It's just an unfortunate thing that happened out there," receiver Mike Wallace said. "Big part of our offense, but that's football. Things happen all the time but it's unfortunate. He's a great guy. Great player. I hate to see that happen. It looked pretty bad. I'm pretty sure he'll be out for a while but it's next man up. Play for him, through him. He's going to watch us, I know that. We just have to keep playing."
If Keller is out for a significant time, perhaps even the season, as expected, the Dolphins might turn to rookie Dion Sims. Or they could go with Charles Clay, who is more a hybrid H-back type player but is closer to the seam threat that Keller was. He may have to move to tight end now.
Clay says he's ready.
"It's been something I've worked on a lot, not only last season but this offseason,"Clay said. "It's something that I feel comfortable doing. But it's something I also feel I need to work on as well. If I'm the next guy up, I'm going to go out there and give it everything I have."
Clay says he benefitted from Keller's presence the last few months in that the veteran gave him tips on how to do his job even before the snap of the ball.
"I've been learning the little things that separate the good players from great players," Clay said. "That's the things I've learned from Dustin -- reading coverages, knowing what to expect before the play starts, things like that. I'm still working on it but that's probably where I've made the most growth so far. I've been working really hard on my blocking. I feel like I've come a long way."
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who quickly built a good chemistry with Keller, was optimistic other players would fill the role.
"Those guys are going to have to step up and fill the void," Tannehill said. "I think we have guys that can do it. Now, it's just a matter of making it happen."