Sports

Culpepper out to prove Miami wrong

MIAMI -- When the Oakland Raiders worked out Daunte Culpepper in July, coach Lane Kiffin needed to see the quarterback plant on his twice-surgically repaired right knee before signing him.

Kiffin liked what he saw and signed Culpepper to a one-year contract later that day.

First-year Miami Dolphins coach Cam Cameron didn't wait to see what Culpepper could do physically.

Cameron waited for a long-discussed trade between the Dolphins and the Kansas City Chiefs to be consummated that would bring him the quarterback he wanted, Trent Green, whom he'd worked with in Washington.

At least for today, Kiffin or Cameron could leave the field looking smart.

Against the Dolphins today, Culpepper will make his first start 364 days after his last with Miami,where he spent a disappointing 2006 season.

The feel good story of 2006 never materialized. Culpepper returned to his home state of Florida last year as the biggest name under center for the Dolphins since Dan Marino.

But Culpepper lasted only four games, playing on the knee he'd had torn three ligaments in against Carolina in 2005 while with Minnesota.

Culpepper's last start for the Dolphins was Oct. 1, 2006. Former Dolphins coach Nick Saban then sat Culpepper in favor of Joey Harrington because of a shoulder injury. A second surgery on his knee from another injury ended Culpepper's season.

"Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to play healthy in front of the people down there in Miami," Culpepper said. "But other than that I feel like now I get a chance to show them who I am, healthy."

Cameron was hired in January and rumors of Green's imminent arrival followed.

Meanwhile Culpepper rehabbed his knee with his future in Miami murky. The Dolphins acquired Green on June 6.

"We made a collective decision," Cameron said. "Daunte was outstanding during my time here, and I made the statement on Monday, 'We're pulling for Daunte and we wish him well.' Obviously, this week's a little different circumstance because we're competing against somebody, but we wish Daunte Culpepper well."

Green believes it was Culpepper's health and his own familiarity with Cameron that were the deciding factors.

Green didn't get to know Culpepper in their brief time as teammates.

"When we were on the field (together) it was mainly for the individual drills," Green said. "Then when we did the team-type periods, he'd go in and continue rehabbing. There really wasn't much time for any kind of interaction."

Culpepper wasn't allowed to participate in team drills in minicamp and filed a grievance to get his release. He was cut July 17 and signed with Oakland two weeks later.

Even in a backup role, Culpepper has brought the swagger to Oakland that took him to three Pro Bowls in Minnesota.

"He goes into the service-team huddle with a bunch of practice-squad guys and rookies that don't even play for us," Kiffin said. "And he's getting to the line of scrimmage fast, he's getting on them if they don't run the route right."

Culpepper will start today because Josh McCown has a fractured left big toe.

Though Kiffin has been criticized for starting McCown, who has struggled, Culpepper conceded that not playing wasn't necessarily a bad thing.

Culpepper didn't want to spend time talking about last year but admitted today's game is special.

"Absolutely," he said. "Because, obviously you get a chance to play against a team that you played for. That's the bottom line. But football-wise, like I said, it's all about getting the victory."

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