DAVIE, Fla. —Daniel Thomas is on pace for a monster season statistically.
The former Kansas State tailback the Miami Dolphins traded up to select in the second round is averaging 4.9 yards per carry, has caught one of the team's four touchdown passes, and is averaging 101 rushing yards.
The only problem is this rookie has only played half the season, sitting out the opener against New England and the Oct. 2 loss to San Diego because of a tricky hamstring injury, one that flares up from time to time.
This hamstring injury isn't new to Thomas. It surfaced during the draft process and led to him posting a slow 40-yard dash time at K-State's pro day. It resurfaced the week of the opener, sidelined him, and flared up again before the Chargers game.
"It's been pretty frustrating. Missing games my rookie year is the last thing I want to do," Thomas said. "I've missed the first few games, but at the same time it's gotten a whole lot better and I feel like I'll be ready to go."
Thomas said the rest he'd had during the bye week, which he used to get treatment, has helped. Thomas stresses the only way he misses Monday night's game against the Jets is if he suffers an other setback.
He's anxious to show the nation the talent he possesses, and views Monday night's nationally televised game as a great stage, especially considering the Jets are allowing opponents to average 4.2 yards per carry and have given up eight rushing touchdowns.
Thomas isn't the only person excited about his return. When asked about Thomas' reoccurring hamstring issues, coach Tony Sparano compared the tailback to a toy he hasn't had the privilege of playing with.
"From a coaching standpoint it's frustrating. I don't want this to come off the wrong way. I'm not frustrated with Daniel," Sparano said. "I have this vision of how I want the backfield to look and I haven't really had it (available) yet."
Sparano's referring to find the right balance of Reggie Bush and Thomas. Problem is, Thomas can't stay healthy. That's why one of the biggest pushes inside the Dolphins locker room is to help the young players, rookies such as Thomas, learn how to take care of their body. Everyone from Bush to offensive guard Vernon Carey is on Thomas' case about doing what it takes to treat his body "like a Cadillac."
"You can't put any kind of fuel in your Cadillac," Carey said. "You got to wash it and keep it clean, get regular maintenance, and hopefully it performs well for you."
Carey said doing preventative steps, such as regular massages and acupuncture, can be beneficial.
Thomas' goal is to finish out the season strong, and despite his slow start he plans to push to become the NFL's leading rusher.
"I can't wait," said Thomas, who is 14 yards behind New Orleans' Mark Ingram for most rushing yards from a rookie. "It's time to get back on the field."