Dolphins LB Thomas to try to play with torn labrum

Middle linebacker Zach Thomas, the heart and soul of the Miami Dolphins' defense for a decade, will attempt to play the remaining five games of this season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder.

Thomas visited noted Birmingham, Ala., orthopedic specialist Dr. James Andrews on Monday. Andrews cleared him to return to the field despite the injury. If Thomas can get through practices this week and handle the discomfort, he will try to play on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills and wear a harness to limit shoulder movement.

Dolphins coaches and team officials have had no comment on Thomas' status for the Buffalo game. Rookie Channing Crowder moved from outside linebacker into the middle to replace Thomas in Sunday's victory over the Oakland Raiders. He will continue in that role if Thomas is unable to return this week.

Thomas, 32, is also recovering from an ankle sprain, which he noted last week is just as bothersome as the shoulder injury. Andrews told Thomas that he does not risk significant further damage to the torn labrum if he plays.

A five-time Pro Bowl performer, Thomas continues to lead the Dolphins in tackles, with 119, despite missing the Oakland contest. He has now registered 100 or more tackles in each of his 10 NFL seasons, and has 1,377 tackles for his career.

In his first eight seasons, Thomas missed only seven games because of injuries. But a hamstring injury sidelined him for three games in 2004, and it was believed the current shoulder injury could keep him off the field for two or three weeks. The injury occurred in a loss to the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 20.

With both Thomas and Junior Seau out of the lineup, Miami was forced to totally revamp its linebacker corps last week. Seau was placed on injured reserve for the rest of the season with Achilles and calf injuries and, despite his vow to return for 2006, his future with the Dolphins is in question.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click hereInsider.