For now, anyway.
Dolphins coach Nick Saban said Monday that when his team opens
practice for next Sunday's visit to the New York Jets, Harrington
will be the first-stringer. Daunte Culpepper will enter a
rehab-type program designed to help restore some explosive movement
in his surgically rebuilt right knee.
"We'll evaluate it on a week-to-week basis," Saban said.
"This week, we're going to plan to play like we did last week. ...
We're going to work with Daunte, improve his movement, give him
some reps in practice, get Joey ready to play in the game. Now,
does that make him the starter? I guess that makes him the
Culpepper and Saban exchanged heated words during practice
Friday, something the coach loudly -- and somewhat angrily -- tried
to downplay Monday.
"I confront players on the field all the time," Saban said. "Daunte was never disrespectful to me. If I confronted him on the field, I think that's family business and I don't think that's anybody else's business.
"It's not an issue for me, it's not an issue for him."
Culpepper, Saban said, knows he's doing something that's best
for the team right now, even though the Dolphins' top offseason
acquisition is obviously disappointed by the situation.
"I understand that and I respect it," Saban said. "I would be
a lot more concerned if the guy said: 'Great, I don't care. Let me
go down to South Beach and see what's going on down there.' I would
be real concerned then."
Harrington completed 26 of 41 passes for 232 yards and two
interceptions Sunday in Miami's 20-10 loss at New England. He was
chosen the starter one day earlier by Saban, while Culpepper was
listed as "probable" on the team's injury report with what the
team said was a sore shoulder.
And while Saban said Culpepper's shoulder remains a concern, it
was clear that the knee recovery issues were foremost in his
decision to continue with Harrington.
The decision could change "any time," Saban said, but no
timetable for Culpepper's return exists.
"When he's playing and he can move laterally and quickly, not
just in straight-ahead running, but in lateral movements and quick,
explosive movements," Saban said when asked what he needs to see
before he'd return Culpepper to the starting role. "That's what
we'll be looking for."
Neither Harrington nor Culpepper were available in the Dolphins'
locker room Monday afternoon.
"It really doesn't matter who's in there to us," wide receiver
Derek Hagan said. "We've just got to make sure we're on the same
page with every quarterback. ... Joey's just getting his start.
He's got to be ready, and hopefully he'll play as well as he did
The Dolphins are 1-4 and have lost seven of the last eight games
at the Meadowlands, not including a 2003 win over the stadium's
other tenant, the New York Giants.
Only one team in Miami history has recovered from a 1-4 start or
worse to finish with a .500 record; the 1986 Dolphins rallied to
end that season 8-8, yet still missed the playoffs.
Still, such a start isn't always a death knell. There are nine
teams who have reached the playoffs from 1-4, most recently Green
Bay in 2004.
"We've got to get it right. ... I think if we do that, we
improve as a team, we start winning games and we got on a roll
around here in a positive way," Saban said. "We're going to
continue to focus on the good things, correct the bad things, focus
on the good things that we have here and get the thing turned
Culpepper took every snap in the first four games, completed 81
of 134 passes for 929 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions
-- and was sacked 21 times.
Harrington was sacked only once by the Patriots on Sunday.
"By design, it was helpful that if the ball's coming out
faster, you don't have to block them for as long," Saban said.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.