The final week of the season for non-playoff teams is upon us, and that means players being placed on injured reserve with minor injuries simply because they won't be available for the last game of the year.
The Miami Dolphins made such a move Friday, placing starting inside linebacker Karlos Dansby on injured reserve and promoting second-year wide receiver Julius Pruitt from the practice squad.
Dansby, who had been battling a toe injury and did not practice this week, appeared in the Dolphins' first 14 games of the season before missing last week's contest against the Detroit Lions.
The Dolphins' prized free-agent possession of the 2010 offseason, Dansby arrived in Miami on a five-year, $43 million contract including $22 million guaranteed after six highly productive seasons with the Arizona Cardinals.
Dansby immediately stabilized the Dolphins run defense and became the leader of the unit, racking up 95 tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles and four pass deflections.
Tim Dobbins, who was also acquired in the offseason in a draft-day trade with the San Diego Chargers, will make his sixth start of the season in place of the injured Dansby.
Meanwhile, Julius Pruitt will wear No. 11 for the Dolphins and could be active for the season finale in New England, where he'd play special teams and may get a look on offense.
Pruitt, who was signed by the Dolphins in 2009 as an undrafted free agent out of Ouachita Baptist, has spent his first two pro seasons to date on the team's practice squad.
The speedy, 6-foot-3 receiver has traveled with the team in a handful of road trips already this season, but this is his first promotion to the active roster.
Pruitt was potentially signed to a multi-year deal, which would keep him under contract for training camp in 2011. If he received a one-year deal with his promotion, he will be an exclusive-rights free agent in the offseason.
In the short-term, Dansby's absence will most certainly hurt the Dolphins defense in their season finale against the Patriots.
Dansby is far and away the team's most complete linebacker and the only one of the bunch good in coverage. His absence will make it very difficult for the Dolphins to stop the Patriots' two-headed tight-end threat in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
Aside from that, however, Dansby's injury is minor and he should have no trouble recovering in the offseason. He will absolutely return as the starting MIKE linebacker in Mike Nolan's defense in 2011.
As for Pruitt, he was simply either promoted to be given a brief look in Week 17, or merely to be inactive for the finale but already under contract heading into the offseason. (As a practice squad player, he would have become a free agent after Sunday and would have needed to be re-signed.)
If Pruitt is active against New England, he will either serve as the Dolphins' fifth receiver or replace Marlon Moore as the fourth active player at the position. The Dolphins typically keep four receivers active on game days, but have activated five recently and may do so this week if they want Pruitt to play.
Pruitt wouldn't be a factor on offense much and may not even see the field there, though he would probably see some time on special teams if active.
An extremely raw prospect out of college, Pruitt has yet to translate his physical tools into an NFL playing career. If he makes it to training camp in 2011, he'll once again face an uphill battle to make the final roster.
As always, check out the updated projected depth chart reflecting these transactions here.
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Chris J. Nelson majored in journalism at Georgia State University and is currently a programming coordinator for Turner Sports in Atlanta. He operates his own Miami Dolphins website, The Miami Dolphins Spotlight, and he can be followed on Twitter here.