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Plan of attack

With Fiedler hurting, Dolphins will turn to Griese

Posted: Thursday August 07, 2003 3:07 PM

MIAMI (AP) -- Bob Griese's uniform is displayed in the lobby of the Miami Dolphins' training complex, along with his photo from the 1973 Super Bowl, and his plaque hangs over the front entrance.

"I make sure I come through the side door," Brian Griese said with a smile.

Following family footsteps is tough enough without daily reminders about dad's accomplishments. Bob Griese made the Pro Football Hall of Fame, while his son is just trying to get comfortable in his new job as Miami's backup quarterback.

The younger Griese's debut with the Dolphins comes Friday in their exhibition opener against Tampa Bay, and he'll likely start. But the role is temporary -- No. 1 quarterback Jay Fiedler has missed practice the past two days with back spasms and is expected to sit out as a precaution.

"It'll be different putting on a Dolphins uniform for a game for the first time, but it's going to be exciting," Griese said. "I've got a lot of people coming to the game, friends and family that I've had here in Miami for a long time who've wanted to see me play. So it'll be fun."

An anticipated quarterback controversy has yet to materialize, but then the first regular-season game is still a month away. Griese has been erratic during the first two weeks of training camp as he becomes acclimated with the offense and his teammates, while Fiedler looked poised and polished in practice until his back flared up.

Griese and head coach Dave Wannstedt have repeatedly said that the starting job is Fiedler's. And Fiedler said he doesn't feel threatened by his new backup.

Controversy?

"The question is going to keep coming up, I guess," Fiedler said. "That doesn't mean I have to answer it all the time. I understand where it's coming from, but it doesn't change what I'm doing out there."

Fiedler said his back ailment isn't serious, and he would play Friday if the game counted. Instead it's the first of four exhibitions for the Dolphins, who are expected to make a strong bid for their first Super Bowl berth since 1984.

The Super Bowl champion Buccaneers are already 1-0. They beat the New York Jets 30-14 in Tokyo on Saturday, then made the 15-hour trip home and had only two full days of work in Tampa before flying to Miami.

But inexhaustible Bucs coach Jon Gruden bristled when asked if the exhibition season is too long.

"Give me a break," he said. "You've got to practice, and I'm for practicing. I think we should have nine preseason games."

Players and fans may disagree, but a lengthy preseason does give Griese more time to absorb the Dolphins' playbook. He signed with Miami just two months ago after five seasons in Denver, where he started 51 games but fell out of favor and was supplanted by Jake Plummer.

Wannstedt was in the market for a quarterback to replace backup Ray Lucas, who went 2-4 last season filling in for an injured Fiedler during a dismal stretch that cost the Dolphins a playoff berth. Griese was delighted to return to the city where he grew up, even if his father casts an imposing shadow as the quarterback of Miami's two Super Bowl championship teams.

"There's pressure on every quarterback in the NFL," the younger Griese said. "It comes with the business. You learn to deal with it. If you can't deal with it, you're not going to be around very long.

"I went through a lot in Denver, but coming back to Miami is a great opportunity for me. It's pretty unique that I have a chance to come back and play where my dad played."

As for the idea he might put pressure on Fiedler with a strong performance Friday, Griese noted that Lucas looked impressive in Miami's exhibition games last year.

"That's how much the preseason matters," Griese said.

Still, South Floridians are eager to see how Griese looks in aqua, and that includes his dad, who will be in the press box Friday as an announcer on the local telecast. Bob Griese laughed at the idea Wannstedt invited a controversy by acquiring Brian.

"Why aren't there controversies at other positions? Why only the quarterback position?" the elder Griese said. "Dave went out and got another guy that could win, and he isn't going to be put in a situation like he was in last year. I think it's a very positive thing."

Fiedler has a 29-13 record as Dan Marino's successor, giving him a winning percentage second only to Kurt Warner among active quarterbacks. But Fiedler has never become a fan favorite, partly because he has thrown just one touchdown pass and seven interceptions in three playoff games.

Miami possesses a strong defense and the reigning NFL rushing champion in Ricky Williams. A big season by the quarterback would likely mean a big season for the team.

Controversy?

"I'm not going to be looking over my shoulder at anything," Fiedler said. "I'm looking straight ahead. I'm looking to move forward."

But on Friday, he'll likely be looking on from the bench.

 
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