Behind Enemy Lines: Dolphins, Part I

Viking Update asks Dolphin Digest associate editor Alain Poupart about Daunte Culpepper, his rehabilitation, the expectations surrounding him and his future – along with Joey Harrington's situation in part one with Poupart.

Tim Yotter: Do you believe Daunte Culpepper's ineffective play was mostly the result of not being fully rehabilitated?

Alain Poupart:
I would say yes in the sense that his lack of mobility left him a sitting duck in the pocket. Now, he also was tremendously indecisive and holding onto the ball too long, but not being able to move very well took away the option of getting out of the pocket and buying more time. A real telltale sign occurred early in the season when he was run down from behind by a defensive lineman (I believe it was Ryan Denney of the Bills). That, right there, showed everyone there was something very wrong with Culpepper.

TY: Were the coaches convinced by him that he was ready to go when he started the preseason and regular season?

AP:
Things being as tight-lipped in Dolphins camp as they are, this is pure conjecture, but I'm pretty sure it was Culpepper saying all along he was fine along with the team doctors clearing him to go that made it happen. I'm sure Nick Saban wouldn't have put him out there had Culpepper not been cleared by doctors. Besides, Culpepper was able to do everything from a football standpoint heading into the regular season – it's just that nothing could simulate the speed of the regular season, so nobody could see firsthand he wasn't game-ready until the real games actually started.

TY: What is his general timetable to play again, and will he have a starting job when he's healthy?

AP:
There is no timetable other than he's being evaluated week-to-week. That said, it would surprise no one if the Dolphins shut him down for the whole season at some point. As for the starting job, unless Joey Harrington suddenly becomes the second coming of Dan Marino, it's Culpepper's. The Dolphins have too much invested in him (second-round pick, big contract) not to give him every opportunity to show what he can do when healthy.

TY: What has been the reaction to him down there throughout the past eight months and what are the long-term expectations?

AP:
Needless to say, it's been quite the roller coaster. Big-time, ridiculously high hopes right after the trade, great surprise and optimism when he started training camp on time, cautious optimism through the preseason, then major disappointment early on and now there's a great deal of anxiety because we just don't know what the Dolphins got with him. He played so poorly early on that not everybody is ready to dismiss that as simply the result of not being ready. So the expectations now have been replaced by a lot of uncertainty. Everybody here is just real curious to see what he'll do after returning.

TY: What has made Joey Harrington effective down there recently since he never really got things going with the Lions, or is this just a matter of the team playing better around him (since he only has a 65.7 rating)?

AP:
Harrington has been efficient, which is pretty much all the Dolphins need him to be if the defense is going to continue playing defense the way they did the last two weeks. What he can't do is make the really bad throw, which he did in his first couple of starts.

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