The Dolphins and Daunte Culpepper had to learn the hard way.
Because he desperately wanted to open the regular season as Miami's starter, Culpepper admitted Wednesday that he stopped some of the preseason rehabilitation drills that were designed to help him return from a major knee injury. Culpepper achieved his goal of playing in the opener against Pittsburgh but now finds himself replaced indefinitely by Joey Harrington entering Sunday's game against the New York Jets.
Dolphins coach Nick Saban said the team's medical and training staff have constructed a program designed to improve Culpepper's "explosive movement." Rather than participate in every facet of Wednesday's practice, Culpepper spent some of the session doing resistance and weight training as well as exercises aimed at bettering his lateral movement.
"When I got here, I was doing my rehab and going through the proper steps," said Culpepper, who was acquired in a March trade with Minnesota. "But when we started practicing as a team, I was feeling so good and everybody saw I was doing good, we didn't take the proper steps. That's my fault as much as anybody because my eagerness to be out there. It didn't turn out the way we wanted, so now we're taking the proper steps to get it right."
But Dolphins coach Nick Saban's inability to identify Culpepper's deficiencies earlier may ultimately cost Miami (1-4) a chance at the playoffs. Culpepper was sacked an NFL-high 21 times while Miami opened 1-3. Even more disturbing was a lack of the mobility that made Culpepper one of the NFL's most dangerous quarterbacks before tearing three knee ligaments last October in a game against Carolina.
Until four days before the Patriots game, Saban still planned to start Culpepper and even showered him with praise after an improved effort during a 17-15 loss at Houston.
"I thought he made good decisions." Saban said during an October 4 news conference. "Especially at the end of the game, he seemed to play extremely well and have good command over what was going on.
"He moved around better in the game. I think some of that's coming back for him and hopefully it will continue to improve each week."
Hours later, Saban made the decision to bench Culpepper because of unhappiness about how he performed in practice.
Two days later, Saban and Culpepper had an on-field argument that the latter tried to spin in a humorous way by saying the two were debating that weekend's University of Florida-Louisiana State University game.
Culpepper said he and Saban are "on the same page" and offered his support for Harrington, who looked surprisingly sharp in a 26-of-41 passing performance in last Sunday's 20-10 loss at New England.
"For as upset as you are, you need to be there for the team, and Daunte has done a great job of that," said Harrington, who was acquired in a May trade with Detroit as an insurance policy in case Culpepper needed additional recovery time.
"But he's a competitor and he's going to fight for that job. I wouldn't expect anything less of him."
Saban, though, would prefer Culpepper concentrate solely on getting well. In fact, Saban wouldn't rule out the possibility of Culpepper ultimately landing on injured reserve or the team signing another quarterback while his rehabilitation continues.
"He's a tremendous player," Saban said of Culpepper. "I think when he gets to be the Daunte of old, he's definitely going to be the quarterback around here of the future. That's why we brought him here."
Culpepper Quit Rehab Drills
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