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Saints give Dawsey hope for resurgence

Anyone who takes a barnstorming tour of some of the NFL's Cheese League training camp sites in Wisconsin is bound to see a number of players with Florida connections.

But of all the former Bucs, Gators, Seminoles and Hurricanes dotting the rosters of the Saints, Vikings and Packers, the most surprising has to be Lawrence Dawsey.

"I was trying to sneak back in and keep it on the down low," said Dawsey, who is trying to earn a spot with the Saints.

Dawsey was part of Florida State's "Fab Four" receiving corps from 1987-90, and then played with Tampa Bay for five seasons. In his first two years, he produced 115 receptions for 1,594 yards and four touchdowns. But a knee injury forced him to miss time in 1993 and 1994.

In 1995, he started 10 games, but his season was cut short by an infected finger that was mistreated by team doctors.

He had 18 catches for 233 yards with the Giants in 1996. In 1997, the Dolphins cut Dawsey at the end of the preseason.

Dawsey spent 1998 out of football, but worked out with former Bucs receivers Horace Copeland and Mark Carrier in Tampa, where he resides.

"Everything is pretty healthy and that's the good thing about me not playing last year," Dawsey said. "I let my body heal up and I got to spend time with the family. It all worked out good."

Saints receiving coach Harold Jackson, who had coached Dawsey in Tampa Bay, spotted him at the Tom Shaw speed-training camp in New Orleans last spring.

"Things just kind of fell into place," said Dawsey, who made a spectacular one-handed reception during practice Monday. "They needed a receiver and I wanted to give it at least one more shot before I hung up my cleats. This was the perfect opportunity for me."

"I'm having fun. I'm truly blessed with the opportunity that I have. I just thank God every day and just lay it on the line. If it's meant for me to play in the NFL again, it'll be."

THE SUNSHINE BOYS: Other players with connections to the state include Florida's Danny Wuerffel and Fred Weary, both with New Orleans.

Weary should play a significant role as a backup cornerback and special teams standout, but Wuerffel is in a battle with NFL Europe standout Jake Delhomme for the No. 3 roster spot behind the Billy Joes, Hobert and Tolliver.

"I don't know if you ever have a spot," Wuerffel said. "Every spot is always looking for competition. Every year it's the same thing. You've got to keep doing your thing and hope the chips fall as they do."

In Mankato, Minn., Central Florida quarterback Daunte Culpepper is trying to adjust to not being a starter for the first time in eight years. Although he was a first-round pick, Culpepper is apprenticing behind Randall Cunningham and Jeff George and sharing reps with Todd Bouman.

"I have to deal with it," Culpepper said. "I'm not whining about it. I'm just somebody who's going to go out and work hard and be the best I can be. I'm a team player."

Meanwhile, former Pinellas Park High receiver Tony Bland is trying to find a place in the Vikings' deep and talented receiving group.

The same words could be used to describe Brooksville's Tyrone Goodson of the Packers. Goodson's chances are a little better, however, because Green Bay is retooling its receiving corps after Robert Brooks' retirement.

HIGH-TECH FOOTBALL: The Saints have become the first team to adopt a complete computerized playbook.

Implementing a program developed by Denver-based Knowledge Inc., the Saints downloaded their nearly 400-play playbook and opponents' defensive tendencies into laptops for offensive players to study.

"I think it's hard to get guys to read, but I think it's easier to get them to play video games," Saints coach Mike Ditka said, "and that's basically where this becomes a video game.

"And it teaches in the process. We have a way to understand and know how much time they're spending at it."

Each week, players get discs with the game plan. The Saints also will have the ability to match the play with live video.

The team has 60 laptops for players and coaches, who can use them to study all the time. The software will include a grading system that tests players on specific assignments.

"You can test yourself and get your grade back in a matter of seconds," RB Aaron Craver said. "The days of taking game film home on videos are over. This is the future."

Dallas and New England have plans to utilize the program next year.

_ Information from Times wires was used in this report.

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