Dolphins desperate for healthy offensive linemen
The Miami Dolphins are desperate for offensive linemen, they've even had to resort to in-game hiking lessons to teach players how to snap the ball. The Dolphins used three different centers last week against the Carolina Panthers because of their injury-depleted offensive line. One of them, former practice squad tackle Nate Garner, hadn't hiked the ball since junior high. Garner only had to play the position a few downs and the Dolphins managed to leave Charlotte with a win. But only after offensive coordinator Dan Henning sent instructions down from the booth for quarterbacks coach David Lee to give Garner some quick hiking lessons on the sideline. Henning said it was just the second time in his 30-year NFL career he had to train a player to snap the ball on the sideline. The first time was 2002, in the same stadium. Ironically, he was the Panthers offensive coordinator at the time. Last week against his former team he found himself again filling holes. "We were just trying to get through the end of the game without an error that would lose the field position or give them the ball," Henning said. "That was nervous time." The Dolphins are scrambling to patch up the line and protect a running game that is the team's main offensive strength - especially after Ronnie Brown's season-ending injury. Miami is fourth in the NFL in rushing, averaging 156 yards per game, but ranks 30th in passing with just 161 yards a contest. Two of the Dolphins' six remaining opponents are in the top-10 against the run - ninth-ranked Tennessee and top-ranked Pittsburgh. Coach Tony Sparano said starting center Jake Grove's status is uncertain for Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. Grove rode a stationary bike with a heavily taped left ankle during the media portion of Miami's Wednesday practice, If Grove can't play, backup center Joe Berger will start. Sparano said he was comfortable with Berger, who he called one of the team's smartest players. The status of starting left guard Justin Smiley is also uncertain. He missed the Tampa game two weeks ago with a shoulder injury but came off the bench against the Panthers. "When you see three or four guys go down, you've got a different center on every other play, as a quarterback you think, "Who's coming in next?"' QB Chad Henne said. Maybe Mark Lewis? The Dolphins were worried enough to call back the former practice squad lineman. He arrived in Miami on Tuesday, six hours after the team woke him up with a 6:30 a.m. call to his family's Arroyo Grande, Calif., home. Lewis was working on a Christmas tree farm after the Seattle Seahawks cut him from their practice squad last month.