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Turley tries to return from back problems

Former standout offensive tackle Kyle Turley, who hasn't been in a game since a 2003 playoff loss because of severe back problems, is attempting to revive his career at the Miami Dolphins' mini-camp this weekend.

As a tight end.

Turley, 30, is an unsigned veteran invitee to the three-day camp, which began on Friday and is principally for rookies. His participation in the camp, which also includes veteran free agent linebacker Barrett Green and undrafted Virginia Tech quarterback Marcus Vick, was first reported by the South Florida Sun Sentinel and subsequently confirmed through team officials.

Weighing about 40 to 50 pounds less than the 309 pounds at which he played right offensive tackle for six seasons with the New Orleans Saints and St. Louis Rams, and trying to adapt to a new position, Turley is definitely a long shot to earn a contract for training camp.

But the former first-round draft choice, who missed only one regular-season game before his back woes sidelined him for more than two years, is determined to get back into the league. It's believed that the tryout with the Dolphins, whose tight end depth chart is a bit unsettled behind starter Randy McMichael, is the first audition that Turley has had.

The former San Diego State star was released by the Rams in June 2005 after he failed a team-administered physical examination. Turley missed the entire 2004 season as well when his back problem flared during training camp and he was placed on injured reserve.

Turley has been treated for more than two years now by Dr. Robert Watkins, a renowned Los Angeles back specialist who performed surgery on a herniated disc in March 2004. Turley re-injured his back four months later and eschewed a second surgery, preferring instead to go through a long rehabilitation that included shedding considerable weight.

During his rehabilitation, Turley suggested that he might return to the league as a defensive end. But he decided that he needed to play a position that placed even fewer demands on his back, and at which he did not need to carry as much bulk, and settled on tight end. It is believed that Turley has spent several months working out in Arizona and performing receiving drills as he attempts to adapt to a new position.

Throughout his recovery, Turley has been adamant that he would not retire, and remained optimistic that he could return to football.

His last game action came Jan. 10, 2004, when the Rams lost to the Carolina Panthers in double overtime of a divisional round playoff contest. Turley played in all 16 regular-season games in 2003. Over six years, Turley appeared in 95 regular-season games, all of them as a starter.

The seventh overall player selected in the 1998 draft, Turley played six seasons with the Saints, and then was traded to the Rams in the spring of 2003.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.