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American Football: Culpepper supports Harrington Start

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Ben

posted on Oct, 11 2006 @ 06:32 PM
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Daunte Culpepper showed plenty of mobility Wednesday when it came to sidestepping talk of the argument he had with Dolphins coach Nick Saban during practice last week.

"If you all really have got to know, would you all believe that really we were talking about the Florida-LSU game? He was all LSU and I was talking for Florida," Culpepper said. "Would you believe that?"

Well, no.

The exact truth of what prompted the disagreement remains under wraps, yet Culpepper -- in his first extended remarks since being removed from Miami's starting lineup last week -- said he does agree with the decision Saban made making Joey Harrington the first-string quarterback.

It's not a demotion based on results; Saban made that clear when saying Culpepper is getting into a rehab-style program designed to restore explosive movement in his surgically rebuilt knee.

But no one knows when -- or if -- Culpepper will return this season.

"I have to say 'thank you' to coach Saban," Culpepper said. "Because in this situation he's really protecting me and doing what's best for the team and that's how we're moving along."

He was placed on the injury report last week with a bruised shoulder, the result of getting sacked 21 times in the season's first four games. But the lingering concern is the right knee, in which he tore three ligaments last Oct. 30 in his final game with the Minnesota Vikings.

Culpepper, who completed 81 of 134 passes for 929 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions in four games, surprised some by being ready for the season. But it became evident early on that his mobility was hampered, and that prompted Saban to make the change.

"One thing we have to realize is coming back from an injury like this is really an A to Z process," said Culpepper, who's listed as doubtful on the injury report. "You can't skip any letter in between, no matter how big or how small they are. You have to keep that in mind in this situation, too."

So, just as it was last week against New England, as it will be this Sunday at the New York Jets and apparently for the foreseeable future, it's Harrington under center for the Dolphins.

"This is strictly something that's being done in the best interest of the player," Saban said, referring to Culpepper. "Joey's got an opportunity and we're going to support him."

For his part, Harrington feels for Culpepper -- he knows what it's like to be a starter-turned-backup from his experience in Detroit last season.

"I was in that situation last year. It's not fun," Harrington said. "And the worst part is everyone's watching you. For as upset as you are, you need to be there for the team and Daunte has done a great job of that. But he's a competitor and he's going to fight for that job and I wouldn't expect anything less of him."

Jets quarterback Chad Pennington, like Harrington, can relate to Culpepper's situation. Pennington missed three games with a shoulder injury in 2004, had offseason surgery, then injured the shoulder again in the third game last season, missing the remainder of the year. And he quickly learned the recovery process almost never goes as quickly as an athlete would like.

"As athletes, we want to be out there competing and contributing to our team on the field," Pennington said. "It's so hard to pull yourself back because that's not in our nature. Especially as football players, we feel like as long as we can stand up on two feet, we can play."

Saban said the team hasn't entertained any thoughts of putting Culpepper on injured reserve, ending his season. He's maintaining that the issue will be addressed week to week.

"I don't think it's a season-long injury. I don't think it's a season-long deal," Culpepper said. "I think it's more of 'get a little time, work and bust my butt to get better' and then see. Let us evaluate and see. And from there we move on to the next step and whatever we have to do."




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