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Dolphins' Collins Sidelined

Miami Dolphins running back Cecil Collins got encouraging news Sunday when tests showed no new break in his injured right ankle, giving him a chance to heal in time for the season opener.

Coach Jimmy Johnson worried about a slight crack in the ankle after beating Detroit 31-10 in an exhibition Saturday night. But an MRI exam showed Collins aggravated an injury Collins sustained two years ago at LSU.

"He irritated it," Johnson said Sunday. "I'm not too sure if they're going to cast it. He's in pretty good spirits. Everybody's optimistic."

Collins broke his right leg and damaged ankle ligaments in an October 1997 game against Vanderbilt. That turned out to be his last game at LSU.

The Dolphins' fifth-round draft pick will be on crutches for a few days and miss Thursday's exhibition finale at Green Bay. But there's a possibility he could be ready when Miami opens the season Sept. 13, a Monday-night showdown at Denver.

"I'm glad it wasn't serious," Collins said. "I'm going to work hard with the trainers to do everything I can to try and get ready as soon as possible."

Considered a first-round talent, Collins' draft stock fell because of legal problems that included a sex-abuse charge and a failed drug test. The Dolphins took him with the first pick of the fifth round.

Before the injury, he appeared to have wrested the starting job from Karim Abdul-Jabbar with his natural instinct and explosiveness. Despite gaining just 17 yards Saturday night, Collins leads the team with 34 carries for 144 yards -- more than double the yardage for any other Miami back.

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