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SHULA NOT SURE WHAT HIS FUTURE HOLDS

SHARE SHULA NOT SURE WHAT HIS FUTURE HOLDS

It is the biggest puzzle in the National Football League at the moment, and Don Shula isn't quite sure how all the pieces are going to fall.

Will Shula be the head coach of the Miami Dolphins in 1995? Or will it be Jimmy Johnson?If it is Johnson, then will Shula still be with the Miami Dolphins in a leadership role?

"I'm looking forward to coaching this year," said Shula. "I know that much. When the season is all over, then I'll make a decision on if I want to coach after that. How I feel, how the team does, what it looks like in the future will all play into my decision.

"I've always said I would continue to coach unless it wasn't fun for me anymore and the challenge was gone out of it. I still enjoy it. This year, the Super Bowl is in Miami, and I would love to be in it. That would be special."

There was no question about Shula's future until the Robbie family - which still is the official owner of the team - reached an agreement to sell the Dolphins to businessman Wayne Huizenga.

Huizenga owned a majority interest in Joe Robbie Stadium and a minority interest in the team. However, when the Robbie family ran into a myriad of financial problems, Huizenga stepped in with his checkbook. But he does not owe Shula as the Robbies do. With his brilliant coaching and leadership, Shula made the Dolphins one of the best franchises in sports over the past 25 years.

Now the question is, will Huizenga be a problem for Shula?

"I've had a couple of sit-down meetings with him, and I'm confident that when he finishes with the purchase of the club, it will be a good situation," said Shula. "But the problem is that he does not own the club yet. The deal is not finished. Supposedly, there is a June 30 date on this thing, so it should be done soon, and then we will see what happens."

Shula is the highest-paid coach in the NFL outside of Johnson, who this year will make around $3 million (a $2 million payoff from Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and another $1 million from TV). He has won more games (327) than any other coach in NFL history.

"Last year, we had the best record in the league on Thanksgiving Day, and it looked like it was going to be a great year," said Shula. "And then everything fell apart. We were destroyed by injuries, and it kept getting worse each week. There wasn't anything we could do. It hurt to finish the way we ended it after playing so well for most of the year."

Quarterback Dan Marino was knocked out midway through the season with a torn Achilles' tendon, beginning a sequence of injuries that made it difficult on Shula.

"Dan is still limping," said Shula. "When you look at him, you wonder (if he will be ready to play this season). If you see him just walking, it doesn't look good. But after he warms up a little bit, he can move around.

"There is nothing wrong with his arm. . . . The question is the leg and his mobility. He tells me he will be there, and you can't meet a more competitive guy. He has worked harder in this offseason than he has in any other since he has been playing football. I think he will make it."

Injuries also devastated Miami on defense, particularly a knee injury to cornerback Troy Vincent with three games to play.

"Vincent was playing as well as any defensive back in football when he got hurt," said Shula. "He is coming along very fast. If Marino and Vincent can play like they were before they were injured last year, it will be a big plus for us.

Shula leaves the door to 1995 - and beyond - wide open. He isn't sure if he wants to coach, but there is no question he wants to stay in the NFL.

"I want to stay connected," he said. "I love the game. I put a lot into it. If I'm not coaching, I'd love to have the kind of position where I could do what Jim Finks did in New Orleans or Al Davis has done with the Raiders.

"With my background, I think it would be a perfect situation."