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Dolphins Looking for Answers

August 20, 2000

MIAMI (AP) _ Dolphins quarterback Damon Huard might be running out of chances.

Huard, battling Jay Fiedler for Miami’s starting job, will play three quarters Monday night against the injury-riddled Green Bay Packers. His performance could be an important showing in the race to replace Dan Marino, the NFL’s all-time passing leader.

Fiedler, who had arthroscopic surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right hip on Aug. 3, returned to practice Saturday and should play significant minutes in Miami’s exhibition finale Friday against New Orleans.

``We made the commitment to give Jay a chance to win the starting job,″ offensive coordinator Chan Gailey said. ``There is nothing he could do about the injury, so that shouldn’t be a reason for us to keep him from competing for that job.

``We’re hoping and expecting Damon will play well this week, but if Jay comes out and lights it up against New Orleans, we’re going to have a tough decision on our hands.″

With Fiedler on the sidelines, Huard completed 18 of 31 passes for 165 yards but has not led the Dolphins to a touchdown in two preseason games. He also threw the team’s only interception.

``We’ve got a lot of new people and we’re working through some new things,″ coach Dave Wannstedt said. ``At times, we’ve dropped some balls. At times, we’ve had some penalties. At times, we haven’t throw it has sharp. At times, we haven’t blocked as good. But we will. We will.″

Said Huard, who led the Dolphins to a 5-1 record with Marino sidelined last season: ``We’ve stopped ourselves more than anything. We just haven’t put the points on the board.″

Green Bay might have a tough time scoring, too, with several key offensive players out for Monday’s game.

Quarterback Brett Favre, receiver Corey Bradford and tailbacks Dorsey Levens and Ahman Green will not play.

Second-year pro Matt Hasselbach will start in place of Favre, who has lingering tendinitis in his throwing arm. Third-teamer Basil Mitchell will take over in the backfield.

Levens had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee last week, and Green sprained his right knee Aug. 13. Both are expected to be back in 3-4 weeks.

Bradford could miss two months with a broken left ankle.

``You have to be able to handle injuries,″ Packers coach Mike Sherman said. ``They’re as much a part of the game as blocking and tackling are. How you block and tackle reflects how you win, and how you handle injuries reflects how you win.

``We’ll get through this.″

The Dolphins have different offensive problems.

Not only are they unsure who will start under center, coaches still are waiting for a starting running back to emerge.

Autry Denson, J.J. Johnson, Lamar Smith and Thurman Thomas have split time this camp and might continue to do so in the regular season.

``People would love to have a Barry Sanders here or a Terrell Davis, a guy who could carry the load,″ Thomas said. ``But that isn’t always going to happen.″

Smith will start Monday and share first-half playing time with Thomas, Wannstedt said. Denson will play extensively in the second half.

Johnson, who led the Dolphins in rushing with 538 yards last season, began camp as the starter. But he has gained just 3.1 yards per carry in two games. Smith, meanwhile, carried 17 times for 72 yards (4.2-yard average) against Tampa Bay’s stingy defense last week.

``If you need somebody to push you, something is wrong,″ Johnson said. ``Lamar is a good addition to our team.″

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