Lawrence Timmons had a reputation of leadership and consistency before disappearance
Lawrence Timmons had spent his previous 10 seasons in the NFL establishing himself as a leader off the field, and a pillar of consistency on it, making the Miami Dolphins linebacker’s disappearance from the team Saturday all the more surprising.
His mysterious unexcused absence not only ended a streak of starting 101 consecutive games when he was held out of the Dolphins’ 19-17 win against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday - it put his future with his new team in jeopardy.
That uncertainty was underscored Monday when Dolphins coach Adam Gase declined to say whether he expects the 31-year-old Timmons to be on the team moving forward. Gase offered no new information about Timmons’ situation but did say he only has two rules: “be on time and play hard.”
Asked about his level of tolerance when those rules are violated, Gase said: “What do you think? I've got two rules. It’s not hard.”
Sunday was to be Timmons’ regular-season debut with the Dolphins after signing a two-year, $12 million contract in March. The former Florida State standout, who is originally from Florence, S.C., had played in 120 consecutive games with the Pittsburgh Steelers before becoming a free agent this offseason.
Timmons hopes to rejoin the Dolphins this week, league sources told the Sun Sentinel, and he was expected to meet with Gase on Monday. But when the coach spoke to reporters mid-afternoon, Gase said he didn’t know if Timmons was in the building.
“I’m kind of dealing with the guys that played,” Gase said.
Timmons’ abrupt departure from the team was characterized as “a private matter ... of a personal nature” by his agent Drew Rosenhaus in a television interview Sunday night.
When the Dolphins were unable to locate Timmons on Saturday night, the team filed a missing person’s report with police in Los Angeles, a source with knowledge of the situation confirmed to the Sun Sentinel. According to TMZ, police found Timmons at LAX early Sunday morning getting ready to board a flight to Pennsylvania to go see family.
ESPN reported that the linebacker was scheduled to meet with doctors on Monday.
Although Timmons’ disappearance remains mystifying, it’s not without precedent in Dolphins history. During training camp in 1992, nose tackle Alfred Oglesby made up a story about being kidnapped by two armed men and abandoned in the Everglades so he could escape punishment for breaking curfew and missing practice.
Oglesby later admitted he had overslept after staying out late drinking at a nude bar.
Teammates taped Oglesby to a tree outside the team dormitory at St. Thomas University and left him there for 30 minutes as penance. He was cut from the team later in the season, a football decision unrelated to his truancy.
Monday, Dolphins players expressed surprise and bewilderment about Timmons going AWOL on the eve of their season opener, which was delayed a week due to Hurricane Irma. Several spoke of him as a team leader, a reliable veteran to look up to.
“I’m trying to think of the best word to describe him: He’s tenacious,” safety Michael Thomas said. “He’s always running to the ball, always making the play. Always uplifting, bringing other guys along. He’s been one of the best teammates.”
Things to know about new Dolphins LB Lawrence Timmons
Lawrence Timmons had a stellar career in 10 seasons with the Steelers, but he probably is best known by Dolphins fans for throwing up in a game at Hard Rock Stadium last season. (Keven Lerner, Chris Perkins)
Those who spoke about him Monday said there was no indication leading up to the game that anything was amiss with Timmons, who was expected to be a key cog on defense for the Dolphins this season.
“It caught everyone off guard. He was doing so well, there weren’t any signs at all,” center Mike Pouncey said.
Chase Allen, the undrafted rookie who was thrust into his first NFL start due to Timmons’ absence said, “He had a great week of practice.”
Despite the bind Timmons left them in, with only four linebackers Sunday, teammates said they would have no trouble welcoming Timmons back.
“We won’t turn our back on anybody, regardless of the situation,” Pouncey said. “Obviously, we don’t know the full extent of everything.
“You just hope that he’s doing OK and he’s fine and he’s coming back ready to play some football.”
Just last week, Gase spoke of Timmons’ quiet leadership in the locker room.
“He doesn’t say a whole bunch but the way he operates and the way he goes about his business, I think guys respect that and understand why he’s been in the league so long and why he’s been so successful,” Gase said Thursday.
But Monday, the coach’s terse responses to questions about Timmons suggested Gase is prepared to get along without the veteran despite the shortage of linebackers on the roster.
“We’ve had a lot worse situations at other positions before,” Gase said. “We’re used to adjusting. It’s not a big deal for us.”
Releasing Timmons could be difficult for the Dolphins with most of his salary guaranteed, but there is the possibility of a suspension for a violation of team rules.
Various teammates spoke Monday about their positive relationship with Timmons.
“Lawrence has been awesome,” Allen said. “He came up to me and introduced himself the first day and just acts like a normal guy. Lawrence is a great dude.”
Second-year linebacker Mike Hull said he often sought out Timmons advice and found him receptive to share the benefit of his experience in the league.
“I’d always go and ask him how he would play a certain situation or certain looks,” Hull said. “He’s a good guy overall. Everything he’s done in the building has been great.
“He was great to work with. Whenever it was time to turn it on, he was turning it on, in practice and games.”
Beyond helping teammates, Timmons also has a history of giving back in the community, including holding a free football camp for kids in his hometown in South Carolina.
Before joining the Dolphins, Timmons was probably best known among Miami fans for the time last season when he threw up on the field at Hard Rock Stadium after a Dolphins touchdown.
Timmons’ absence Sunday snapped the longest playing and starting streak among front-seven defenders in the league.
Teammates reacted with concern when they heard that Timmons was missing.
“Everyone just hoped he was OK, that nothing bad happened. After we figured out he was Ok, it was just relief for everyone,” Hull said.
Then it became a scramble to adjust to a big void in the linebacker corps.
Hull replaced Timmons as the linebacker paired with Kiko Alonso in the nickel package Sunday and contributed a team-high 10 tackles while playing every play on defense. But Hull, who was starting just his second NFL game, allowed every pass thrown at a player he was covering to be completed.
Allen replaced Timmons as the strong-side linebacker in Miami’s base defense. All of them drew praise from Gase for the way they responded to adversity.
Just where Timmons stands with his coach and whether he will get another chance with the team remain to be seen.
Last week while practicing in California, a number of Dolphins players paid for lodging and transportation for the Miami Central High football team to get home after being stranded in Las Vegas due to the hurricane.
Wide receivers Kenny Stills and Jarvis Landry, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and safety Reshad Jones took the initiative in contributing money. Timmons was among those who joined in contributing, according to reports.
“It just shows you the kind of character our guys have,” Gase said Monday. “I think it shows kind of when you see them on Sunday, kind of that no-quit attitude. Just kind of the toughness they have to fight throughout an entire game kind of translated off the field, to where it’s about more than just themselves. Those are the kind of guys we want.”