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Pat White's role still a mystery with Miami Dolphins

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BY ADAM BEASLEY

ABEASLEY@MIAMIHERALD.COM

How the Dolphins plan to use rookie quarterback Pat White -- if at all -- in Sunday's opener at Atlanta remains a guarded secret.

But offensive coordinator Dan Henning, speaking to the media for the first time this season, let this nugget of information slip Thursday: The team is convinced White could run the base offense successfully, if needed.

``If he has to go in the game, I'm confident that we're in a position, right now, we can manage Pat, we can win with him, and I think he's going to get better as the year goes on,'' Henning said.

White didn't have much of a chance to open it up in the preseason, completing 4 of 10 passes for 18 yards and an interception. At West Virginia, he was a run-pass threat, and when the Dolphins took him in the second round of April's draft, the assumption was he would become the featured Wildcat quarterback.

But there's a good chance he won't even make the 45-man roster Sunday -- meaning he would only play if Chad Pennington and Chad Henne were injured or ineffective.

``Whether I'm on the 45 or not is up to me in a way, but it's not my decision,'' White said. ``I'll just do what's asked of me and see what happens from there.''

As for the Wildcat, it was the topic of much conversation Thursday. Coach Tony Sparano said the offense no longer has the element of surprise, but that doesn't mean it won't be effective.

And even if he wanted to remove it from the playbook, he knows he would have some unhappy players on his hands.

``If we went out to practice and there was none of it, I think our players would look at me like I took their candy bar away,'' Sparano said.

ADDED TO THE FLOCK

The Falcons might have ranked second in the NFL in rushing last year, but Jason Taylor believes the Michael Turner-led group is second to none. Taylor anointed the Falcons the best rushing team in the NFL.

But with all the focus on the ground game, the Dolphins know they can't let Tony Gonzalez -- who owns every major NFL career record for a tight end -- get lost in the shuffle. Gonzalez will make his debut with Atlanta on Sunday after being acquired from the Chiefs in the offseason.

``I think they went to him **** near every third down in Kansas City last year,'' linebacker Channing Crowder said. ``They have a great weapon to add to that great rushing attack.''

BUMPS AND BRUISES

Reserve offensive tackle Andrew Gardner was excused from practice Thursday for personal reasons. The team did not say whether he would return Friday.

Cornerback Vontae Davis again participated fully in practice, despite a knee injury.

The Falcons' only change to their injury report was defensive end John Abraham (knee), who they said had full participation.

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