White ahead of Henne on game-day depth chart?

May, 1, 2009
5/01/09
5:23
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

DAVIE, Fla. -- One of the ways the Miami Dolphins are preparing for life with Pat White is figuring out who their third quarterback will be on game days.

The Dolphins drafted West Virginia quarterback Pat White in the second round on Saturday. They intend to list him at that position while also using him as a receiver or maybe even a running back on Wildcat plays.

In reality, he would be the third-string quarterback behind starter Chad Pennington and backup Chad Henne, but the NFL has guidelines about teams designating a third quarterback for games.

In 1991, the NFL instituted a third-quarterback rule that allows teams to have an emergency quarterback in case the first two get hurt. This was done because teams had been trying to maximize their 45-man rosters by riskily carrying only two quarterbacks and keeping an extra player who could contribute on special teams.

The third quarterback doesn't count toward the 45-man roster, but if he is inserted into the game before the fourth quarter, then the first two quarterbacks are not allowed to go back in at any position.

That means the Dolphins would have to designate Henne their third quarterback so White could get on the field in the Wildcat.

The Dolphins could list White as a regular player, but then another contributor would lose a spot.

"Leading up to the draft that's something we really had to spend time talking about certainly," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said Friday after the first rookie camp practice.

"An example, and I don't want to get too far ahead of this whole thing right now because I really don't know where this whole thing is, but let's say Pat goes to the game and needs to be the second quarterback in the game.

"If Pat's the second quarterback at the game and something were to happen to Chad [Pennington] during the course of the game it affects my decision-making. If I bring No. 3 in, then neither Pat nor Chad can re-enter the game."

Sparano's choice would be this if Pennington were to get hurt (and he has been injury-prone throughout his career): The Dolphins either would have to use White at quarterback instead of Henne, their quarterback of the future, or forfeit White's multidimensional services by inserting Henne.

Because teams can change their third quarterbacks on a game-by-game basis, this dilemma wouldn't drag on. In the case of a prolonged Pennington injury, the Dolphins would elevate Henne to starter for the next game, keep White as the backup and sign a third quarterback to hold the clipboard.

"Of course, I'm not even going to think down that road right now because I don't want anything to happen to my quarterbacks, but you do have to think about that," Sparano said. "If Pat goes to the game, and it's Chad and Chad [listed as first and second] and he's the third, then you can't bring him in."

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