- The Washington Times - Friday, July 14, 2006

No team finished last season hotter than the Miami Dolphins, who won their final six games behind journeyman quarterback Gus Frerotte.

The Dolphins hope to get hotter still this season, now that former Minnesota Vikings star Daunte Culpepper has replaced Frerotte.

Culpepper is eager for a fresh start, as well. After posting the fourth-best passer rating in NFL history (110.9) in 2004, Culpepper had a tumultuous 2005 that eventually led to his departure from Minnesota.

Culpepper was among the Vikings players involved in the “Love Boat” scandal last year (charges were dismissed) and he suffered a knee injury that ended his season after seven ugly games. After major surgery on the knee, Culpepper looked good in Dolphins’ minicamp this year.

“It’s really a deja vu situation,” Culpepper said. “There was a lot of speculation about me when I went to Minnesota [as a first-round draft pick out of Central Florida]. In 2000, after I was named the starter, everybody wanted to know what I was going to do. Now, there are a lot of questions. People want to know what I’m made of and what I’m going to do.”

Culpepper was so determined to show the Dolphins how his three repaired knee ligaments were healing that he even dove for a fumble during a two-minute drill during minicamp.

“A knee injury? What knee injury?” receiver Frank Murphy said. “I’m like, ‘Whoa, this dude is running around.’ s”

Culpepper said his knee feels great but wouldn’t guarantee he would be ready to play when the Dolphins open the season against the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 7.

“That’s the perfect world,” Culpepper said. “I just have to be smart about it. So far I have not had any setbacks.”

Volek’s team (sort of)

Billy Volek spent most of the past six seasons watching Steve McNair run the Tennessee Titans offense. But after McNair was traded to Baltimore in June, Volek — who went undrafted out of Fresno State in 2000 — became No. 1.

No. 1, that is, until top pick Vince Young is ready to assume command.

“I’m not worried about it,” said the 30-year-old Volek, who passed for a modern-day NFL record 2,788 yards in his 10 starts even though the Titans posted a 3-7 record. “I’m going to take it one day at a time and be thankful for each day. I’m going to take this opportunity and run with it.”

Actually, the plan is for veteran backs Chris Brown, Travis Henry and rookie LenDale White to run with it.

“We’re going to get back to old-school football and run it,” said coach Jeff Fisher, whose Titans were 9-23 over the past two seasons — a span in which they passed 336 more times than they ran.

Brooks is the man

Aaron Brooks was benched by the Saints in December after starting 82 games in a row, a streak that dated to 2000. Brooks’ status as the Raiders’ new No. 1 quarterback, though, was cemented this spring when Oakland, with only raw Marques Tuiasosopo and Andrew Walter in reserve, didn’t draft a passer or sign another in free agency.

“It told me that the organization had trust in the quarterback they had,” said the 30-year-old Brooks. “[Last year] was extremely difficult, frustrating, even at times irritable. … I’m very excited to be working with [new Raiders coach] Art Shell. I’m very excited to have an opportunity to throw the ball to arguably the best receiver in the game today [Randy Moss]. It’s almost like a dream come true. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’m just very happy to be a Raider right now.”

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