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Marino Suffers Fracture

Pro football: Dolphin quarterback has surgery and is expected to sit out at least three weeks.

September 25, 1996|T.J. SIMERS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Coach Jimmy Johnson, who has been training the Miami Dolphins to rely on something besides Dan Marino's arm, will now have no choice but to move on without the game's most prolific passer.

Tests Tuesday revealed that Marino fractured his right ankle Monday night in Miami's 10-6 loss to Indianapolis, and he will be out for at least three weeks.

"If he doesn't have any complications," Johnson said.

The Dolphins (3-1) have a bye this weekend, so Johnson is hoping Marino will sit out only the next two games, against Seattle and Buffalo.

A source told the Associated Press late Tuesday that Marino underwent surgery, but no details were available. Johnson didn't mention any operation while discussing the injury during his weekly news conference.

Marino, 35, was unavailable for comment, but after Monday night's game he said he injured his ankle while setting up to complete a 34-yard pass to O.J. McDuffie in the first quarter. Marino, who had not been hit on the play, continued on for three more downs before the Dolphins kicked a field goal.

With Marino unable to return, the Dolphins went to creaky 12-year veteran Bernie Kosar, who withered under an aggressive Colt pass rush and a stifling run defense. The Dolphins, No. 3 in the league in rushing, gained only 28 yards in 15 carries against the NFL's eighth-best rushing defense.

Can the Dolphins keep pace with the Bills and Colts without Marino? A year ago, Marino emerged from a 27-24 overtime loss to Indianapolis with a bruised hip and a sore knee, which required surgery and kept him out of the next two games. Kosar started, and both the Saints and Jets posted tight victories over Miami.

The Dolphins are a different team, however, and under Johnson's new leadership, running back Karim Abdul-Jabbar has been worked much like Johnson used Emmitt Smith in Dallas. As a result, Johnson asked much less of his starting quarterback. Marino threw only 68 passes in his first three games. Last season, he threw 64 passes in a playoff loss to Buffalo.

Johnson has yet to commit on a starter in two weeks against Seattle but he may be leaning toward Craig Erickson rather than Kosar. Erickson, released by Indianapolis just before the season started, signed with the Dolphins on Sept. 2.

"He hasn't had a single snap with the first or second unit, other than running the opponents' plays," Johnson said. "But with his experience and knowledge and intelligence, I think he'll be able to position himself to where he would be able to play next week."

As for Marino, his right leg has taken a beating. The NFL's all-time leader in completions, passes, yards and touchdown passes, sat out most of the 1993 season because of a ruptured Achilles' tendon in his right foot. He had bone spurs removed from that same foot in 1994, and had surgery on his right knee last season.

"As time goes on, a lot of these injuries do relate," Johnson said. "But our medical people are very optimistic that we can rehabilitate [the ankle] to the point where it shouldn't be any more of a problem than what is already there."

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