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Dolphins QB battle overshadowed

DAVIE, Fla. (July 26, 2005) -- Count quarterbacks A.J. Feeley and Gus Frerotte among those who profess to being thrilled Ricky Williams has returned to the Miami Dolphins.

Yet one of them, however, will probably watch the bulk of Williams' comeback from the sidelines.

Amid widespread fascination over Williams ending his retirement and making his way back to the team he scorned by retiring unexpectedly a year ago, the Feeley-Frerotte battle for Miami's starting quarterback job hasn't exactly ballooned into the sort of controversy that typically hovers over such competitions.

"There's always competition. ... Every guy's tying to do their own job," Feeley said. "And you can't worry about what he's doing, if he's making a play or he's making a completion. You can't really worry about that. You have to worry about yourself."

Two days into training camp, Feeley and Frerotte appear to be splitting time relatively equally -- so it's tough to deduce which quarterback new Dolphins coach Nick Saban is favoring. In fact, the players themselves claim not to know which rung on the depth chart they occupy these days.

"Every coach is different," Frerotte said. "It's up to him and his opinion, when he thinks he needs to make that choice."

Feeley is 28, is already acquainted with the Dolphins' receiving corps and earned the respect of some teammates for the way he played through injury and pain in 2004. Frerotte will turn 34 on July 31, has started six games since the start of the 2001 season and hasn't been a full-time starter since 1997.

Advantage, Feeley.

"Everybody wants to start and that's my plan," said Feeley, who started eight games last year, one where he split time with Jay Fiedler during the Dolphins' dismal 4-12 season. "I don't think you come into the season expecting not to start. Then you're fighting an uphill battle to begin with."

Frerotte, though, is entering his third year in the system new Miami offensive coordinator Scott Linehan used successfully in Minnesota, where the two worked together in 2003 and 2004. And he was a Pro Bowl player in his lone season as a 16-game starter, albeit that came in 1996 with Washington.

Advantage, Frerotte.

"I would be very disappointed," Frerotte said, when asked what his reaction would be if he opened as Feeley's backup. "I would know that my opportunity can come at any time, so I would stay ready. ... I've prepared myself to be a backup. I want to prepare myself differently now."

Feeley's initiation to life as a starting quarterback in the NFL was hardly a smooth one in 2004, a year when he recorded more interceptions than touchdowns and had the worst passer rating -- 61.7 -- among first-stringers in the league.

Meanwhile, Frerotte was Daunte Culpepper's reserve in Minnesota, throwing exactly two passes in the Vikings' 18 regular- and postseason contests. Since the second week of October 2003, Frerotte has dressed for 29 NFL games; he has started none and gone 0-for-3 throwing the ball.

Saban apparently hasn't tipped his hand much to either quarterback, other than telling both to be ready.

"This is the opportunity that we have to improve both guys as much as possible, and we'll continue to evaluate how they do and make a decision at some point in time in the future," Saban said. "I don't really have a timetable for that. I like to let things like this kind of work themselves out."

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