December 9, 2002
MIAMI -- Jay Fiedler welcomes the sudden appreciation, but the journeyman quarterback knows this much: All it will take is one rotten game for fans to howl for his replacement.
Fiedler never has been embraced fully in Miami, which was used to Dan Marino.
This season, Fiedler led the Dolphins to a 5-1 start before breaking his right thumb in a win on Oct.13 at Denver. He watched from the sideline as Miami lost four of six under Ray Lucas. Suddenly, Fiedler didn't seem like such a liability to fans.
Fiedler will be at quarterback again when the Dolphins (7-5) play the Bears (3-9) tonight.
Asked if there is new respect from fans, Fiedler said: "Maybe there is, maybe there isn't. I have to go out there and win games now. As much appreciation as there might have been when I wasn't playing, if I go out there and stink it up, people aren't going to appreciate me anymore."
A win will do more than draw fans to Fiedler -- it will bring the Dolphins closer to the playoffs. They entered the weekend tied for first place in the AFC East.
The ailing Bears will not have running back Anthony Thomas (finger) or tight end Dustin Lyman (knee) after having lost defensive tackle Ted Washington, linebacker Warrick Holdman and receiver David Terrell. Defensive tackle Keith Traylor (calf) and linebacker Brian Urlacher (shoulder) are questionable.
Quarterback Jim Miller has tendinitis in his throwing shoulder but will start against a Miami defense that was victimized by Drew Bledsoe and Buffalo's deep passing attack in a 38-21 loss Dec. 1. Bears coach Dick Jauron left open the possibility that No.3 quarterback Henry Burris could play.
Miller did not throw in practice but hopes playing through the pain will show leadership on a team reduced to being a spoiler.
"You don't want to alienate your teammates. You want to be a team guy, you want to finish strong," Miller said. "It's important to end on a strong note to look toward next year."
Lucas bore a similar responsibility to lead his team no matter the cost. But he struggled.
"I never dreamed I'd be 2-4 during a six-game stretch," Lucas said. "I'm not going to say it's easy to come to work and look these guys in the face. The position I put (Jay) in is tough. I know he's eager to right the ship."
Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt praises Fiedler's composure and attitude.
"Any time you can get your starting quarterback back on the field, that brings a sense of confidence to the offense," Wannstedt said. "It brings a sense of confidence to the whole football team."