Dolphin players may defy NFL, stay at home
Dolphin players may defy NFL, stay at home
By Alex Marvez
Posted September 3 2004
Despite threats of a player boycott stemming from concerns about Hurricane Frances, the Dolphins are still scheduled to play tonight's exhibition-season finale at New Orleans.
Junior Seau, Olindo Mare, Zach Thomas and Jason Taylor were among the prominent players who adamantly told Dolphins management Thursday that they didn't want to play because of the possibility Frances may hit South Florida.
It is believed that a sizeable group of players may not arrive this morning for the team's charter flight to New Orleans, which may force the NFL to cancel the game.
The Dolphins' organization strongly pushed to call off the contest Thursday but was rebuffed by the league office.
Some in team management who experienced the devastation caused by Hurricane Andrew in 1992 believe NFL officials don't understand why the franchise vehemently wants to cancel.
"The first concern is the families and what's going on with them," Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt said Thursday night while taking a break from installing hurricane shutters at his house.
"We'll see. Who knows what's going to happen at the airport or with the airplane? Right now, we're trying to be as optimistic as we can."
Dolphins fullback Rob Konrad, who is the team's NFL Players Association representative, confirmed the league's refusal to cancel an exhibition game amid the hurricane threat in South Florida didn't sit well with his teammates. The Dolphins' top players are particularly frustrated, as starters are only projected to play for about a quarter to reduce injury risk heading into the Sept. 12 regular-season opener against visiting Tennessee.
"Right now, guys are real concerned about their families and houses," Konrad said. "That's their No. 1 priority.
"They don't want to get on a plane and leave everybody."
Asked whether there were any circumstances he personally believes would be acceptable to play the game, Konrad said: "It depends. If the hurricane turns away, I don't have a problem with playing. But if it's tracking for us or might, playing the game is not something a lot of guys want to do.
"This is more of a revenue issue than anything else. If you start to put money in front of safety, that's not a good thing."
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello did not return a telephone call Thursday night seeking comment. On Wednesday, Aiello said, "Every effort will be made to play the game, but we have to pay close attention to this situation because it's very serious."
If the Dolphins do play, the final quarterback competition between Jay Fiedler and A.J. Feeley will take center stage even though both aren't expected to play beyond the first quarter. Fiedler and Feeley appear neck-and-neck for the starting position entering the Titans game.
"I would like to get a little more of a flow going, a little more continuity out there by staying in a little more, but that's not the situation," said Fiedler, who is expected to start tonight's game. "That's what we've got to deal with, going in and out [rotating quarterbacks]."
Feeley also would like more playing time, but Wannstedt has split practice repetitions between both quarterbacks throughout the preseason.
"You look at every quarterback in the league, they've probably played as much as I have," said Feeley, who gained ground in the quarterback competition by spearheading two scoring drives in last Saturday's 17-10 exhibition loss to Tampa Bay.
"It's tough. It's preseason. Guys are playing a certain amount of time in each game. I think I've played a good part of it."
The Dolphins have several other personnel issues to evaluate because of the need to cut 21 players by 4 p.m. Sunday to reach the NFL-mandated roster limit of 53 players. Competition is especially fierce at linebacker and along the defensive line as well as the return positions, where wide receiver Sam Simmons (punts) and rookie tailback Fred Russell (kickoffs) are expected to receive long looks against New Orleans.
Rookie linebacker Tony Bua is one of the players trying to balance concerns about Frances while securing his spot on the roster.
"I have no idea what to expect," Bua said Wednesday. "I just hope to come back and see everything the same ... I just have to go to New Orleans, worry about the game, and after that, worry about everybody down here."
Staff Writer Harvey Fialkov contributed to this report.
Alex Marvez can be reached at email@example.com.
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