Saints/Dolphins close out preseason.......
Dolphins and Saints close out preseason
By MARY FOSTER
The Associated Press
8/27/03 2:58 PM
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints play their final practice game Thursday night.
The score doesn't count, the starters will barely be on the field, and the coaches are more concerned about keeping people healthy than winning.
That does not make the game unimportant, however, Saints coach Jim Haslett said.
"There are still some spots open on our roster," Haslett said. "We are hoping some of these young receivers and tight ends and corners will stand out, so we can make our final decision on the cuts."
Both teams will limit the time starters spend in the game, fearing injuries before the regular season.
Haslett will start quarterback Aaron Brooks and some of his first string. How long they go depends on how well they do and what the Dolphins do. He might leave the first-string defense in a little longer if Miami sticks with its starting offense.
"We will see a little game time, but it's mainly a chance for some of the young guys who still have things to prove to the coaches," said Saints receiver Jerome Pathon.
Running back Ki-Jana Carter appears to have won a roster spot, after a good game last week against San Francisco, but Haslett wants to see him against Miami.
"I feel pretty comfortable in this system," Carter said. "It's just a matter of learning the terminology and getting in better football shape. I would like to really get my confidence up in this game."
For players like Carter, who are new and still learning the system, Thursday's game has extra importance.
After 13 seasons in San Diego, including 12 that ended with a Pro Bowl berth, Junior Seau was traded April 16 to the Dolphins. He's expected to upgrade an already talented defense and help the chemistry of a team notorious for late-season collapses.
He's spent the preseason perfecting his grasp of the Dolphins defense. He'll be at it again Thursday.
"If I knew the system, I wouldn't be playing as much as I have," Seau said. "What we want to do is go in there and get a rhythm, get healthy and be healthy coming back to Miami. September is only about a week away."
For some players Thursday night could still determine where they are on the depth chart.
"How I play will decide how much playing time I get this season and my role with the team," said Miami running back Robert Edwards. "There are a lot of factors involved, but I'm always going to try to play well just in case something happens and other teams will see it and give me an opportunity."
Still, for a lot of players the final preseason game is just one more thing to go through before the season. Like two-a-days and training camp, they're ready to put it behind them.
"We're getting closer," said Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas. "We're out of two-a-days, we're getting our rhythm on defense. What's going to be tough is Thursday against the Saints, when we only have like six plays. You've got to get your mind right. I'm saving it up. I can't wait for the first game of the year just to get started and get into that routine when the games count."
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