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The Long Road Back Despite two major knee injuries, Yatil Green is determined to play for Miami


As he sped with no noticeable limp through a series of 110-yard
striders on the Miami Dolphins' practice field one day last
month, wideout Yatil Green thought play-by-play thoughts: Marino
fades back, he said to himself. He throws it deep. Green's got
it. Touchdown!

"I feel so wonderful," Green said later. "I feel like a football

Well, yes and no. Green is unique among the 148 NFL players on
injured reserve because he has never suited up for so much as a
scrimmage. The Dolphins' first-round draft choice in 1997, Green
blew out his right knee on the first day of training camp that
year, then retore his right ACL on his first sharp cut of 1998
training camp, necessitating another knee reconstruction. He has
worn his Dolphins uniform twice, for the 1997 and '98 team
photos. As hard as he is working to get back on the field--five
days a week, five hours a day--Green has to face the fact that
Miami coach Jimmy Johnson doesn't expect to ever see him on the
field as a Dolphin. "The first year, we counted on him," Johnson
says. "The second year, we thought he had a chance. The third
year, next year, we're hoping for him, but we're not counting on
him. We just can't."

Nevertheless, Green has made quite a turnaround from the mental
wreck he was in August on the day following the second knee
injury. After team orthopedist John Uribe told him how serious
the damage to his knee was, Green lay on the exam table weeping.
"Why me?" he kept repeating through the tears. Forty minutes
passed before Dolphins director of rehabilitation Ryan
Vermillion helped the despondent Green off the table, steadied
him on his feet and steered him to his car.

His right knee held together by a cadaver's Achilles tendon,
Green has progressed so nicely with his rehab that the Dolphins
think he'll be able to test the knee fully by next April. On
Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Green devotes most of his time
to exercises designed to strengthen the knee. On Tuesdays and
Thursdays he concentrates on aerobics and speed drills. "I try
to make every day different," says Vermillion, "because when
you've been rehabbing for two years, it can get pretty damn

Green believes all that work will pay off. "I don't just think
I'll play again," he says, "I'm sure I will. And I'll be a force."

COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO Vermillion's rehab program is designed to stretch Green's limits. [Ryan Vermillion stretching Yatil Green's leg]