In each of Miami's first three exhibition games, Culpepper has taken noticeable strides in his recovery from major knee surgery. The latest steps came in last Thursday's 19-10 loss at Carolina when Culpepper logged his first two preseason carries in the same stadium where he tore three knee ligaments last October while playing for Minnesota.
Culpepper scrambled for eight yards when flushed out of a pocket and also rushed for a first down on a short-yardage quarterback sneak.
"I wanted to show everybody that the injury is not an issue right now," Culpepper said when asked about his scramble. "I don't really worry about getting hit. I'm going to be smart about it when I can run the ball and get what I can get and get down.
"Sometimes, you've got to take a chance. That wasn't the time to do it."
The decision to slide rather than try to gain a few extra yards in an exhibition game came much to the relief of coach Nick Saban.
"I said, ‘Get down!' probably 80 times in those eight yards," a grinning Saban said after the game.
Culpepper enters Thursday's preseason finale against St. Louis without having thrown a touchdown pass or interception. He has led scoring drives in Miami's first three preseason games while completing 73.3 percent of his passes (22 of 30) for 218 yards.
Plus, Culpepper has suffered no setbacks in his recovery from knee surgery and participated in each of Miami's preseason practices.
"I'm getting more and more comfortable every day with the offense," Culpepper said. "I'm getting more and more familiar with the guys. That takes time sometimes in football. To get 11 guys doing the right things at the same time is tough."
Culpepper brought the Dolphins inside Carolina's red zone twice after Miami offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey shifted to a no-huddle attack. But the Dolphins were stuffed at the goal line on one possession and had to settle for a 23-yard Olindo Mare field goal on the other when facing one of the NFL's most ballyhooed defenses.
"We wanted to capitalize a little more when we got inside the red zone," Culpepper said. "For the most part, I think we were very physical. That's the No. 1 thing. We want to send the message that we are going to be a physical offense and just wear our opponent down."
Barring a setback in what will likely be a cameo appearance against the Rams, there is no question that Culpepper will be under center for the Sept. 7 regular-season opener at Pittsburgh.
"We're trying to develop an offense, but at the same time we're trying to manage the development of a guy coming back from an injury," Saban said. "I think he's done better every week and we're pleased. He was obviously more comfortable in what he was doing, but whatever we get done with him in preseason is a bonus because initially we weren't even sure he'd be able to participate in the preseason."
FORMER VIKINGS NOTES