Downer for Daunte

It didn't take a genius to figure out that having to miss Sunday's against his former team would be very painful for Daunte Culpepper. He admitted as much Thursday when he addressed the media for the first time in a little over a month.

"Definitely it was a game I was looking forward to," Culpepper said. "Unfortunately, my knee isn't as good as, I guess, my spirit and my soul wants to be. And my mind wants to be out there playing, but I still have to be smart about my knee and keep moving along and keep progressing, keep getting better. But definitely it hurts my heart not to be able to play in this one and it's tough."

Culpepper, who had declined interview requests since speaking once after the decision was made to sideline him so he could focus on his rehab, touched on pretty much every subject relating to his situation in his media session.

Among the topics discussed were the state of his knee, as well as the critical comments that were made about Culpepper by Vikings coach Brad Childress in the offseason before the trade was consummated.

Here is the interview session.

How is the knee progressing?

Culpepper: "I think I'm progressing. Every day I'm getting a little bit better. That's my goal right now is to get a little bit better, just take it slow and get myself to the point where I can be the player I want to be."

How tough is it not being out there?

Culpepper: "Extremely tough, extremely tough. But I look at the big picture and I look down the road and when I can be the player that I want to be and be effective, that's when I give opposing defenses problems and I can do what we want to do for us to be successful. I still have to keep that in mind."

Just how tough will it be to miss the Minnesota game?

Culpepper: "I played in Minnesota six years and I know the players. A lot of familiar guys coming in this weekend and this is one I wish I could have been in."

What do you have to say about the criticism you got from Minnesota?

Culpepper: "One thing I really want to say about that is it was really sad that there's a lot of misinformation out there about me and they let that kind of go, let that snowball kind of build and go. That's really the only disappointing thing, I think, about the whole situation. I moved on, I'm in a situation now, I'm trying to get my knee right and really the only thing, like I said, and I feel that I'm in a place where I'm being protected. Up in Minnesota, I didn't feel like I was being protected in a lot of different ways. I really don't want to get into it, but I feel like I'm protected right now and I'm being able to get myself together physically with my knee. I really wish that everybody else there would kind of stop talking about me in a negative sense because I was never, in no way, anything negative about that organization and that team. And I really wish that any misinformation that's out there would stop fueling that because it really makes no sense."

Can you become the old Daunte this year or is that a process that might have to wait until next year?

Culpepper: "You never know. Right now I'm at point where my patella, I'm getting a sharp pain when I'm trying to push off. I think the strength is coming back better. I think it's a little sharp pain just at this one point. If I can get past that point, I think I can be very explosive. ... But I also want to get to 100 percent so I can be effective and be a dominating player."

Will be disappointed if that doesn't happen until next year?

Culpepper: "Well, I'd be disappointed, but at the same time I won't be because I know I've got to keep my eye on the big picture. It's really not about short term, it's about long term."

Had you circled the Minnesota game on your calendar?

Culpepper: "You've got to keep in mind, it's really just one more game. The fact that I played there, that puts a little more emphasis on it, but it's just another game on the schedule. There really would have been a lot of emotion, I can tell you that. I'd have been out there. Now I've just got to channel that emotion into my rehab, that's all I can do now."

Do you feel that in your eagerness to return you might have set yourself back?

Culpepper: "Some people could say that. I think with how I was feeling, and I was feeling good. It just didn't work out the way that I wanted it and the way we wanted it. We've got to live with that and we've got to be smart about it now."

The issue with the patellar tendon; is that something that will get better through rehab or might you have to have surgery again?

Culpepper: "I don't know that I have to have surgery. I doubt that, as of right now. I think it's more just strengthening my quad, getting the strength back. The thing is I got some things done, I tore some scar tissue just to take a few steps back to be able to take some steps forward in the future — hopefully, in the near future. But if not, I've got to keep my face to the grind board and keep working hard, but I will get better and I will be the player that I want to be."

When exactly are you experiencing pain, is it when you're planting your foot?

Culpepper: "Not when I'm planting, when I'm taking off, when I try to take off and make a quick movement. That's pretty much how it is."

Do you deep down feel you'll be able to play again this season?

Culpepper: "Me being the positive person I am, of course I want to. But I'm going to be very smart about it, we're going to be smart about it as a team and do what's best for me."

Have you kept tabs on the Vikings this season?

Culpepper: "I'm a sports fan, I watch everybody. Especially when they're on national TV, I'll watch them. But I don't go look and see what the individual stats were or anything like that."

When you were being criticized by Minnesota, how tough was it to stay quiet?

Culpepper: "It's really not tough when I know myself and the people who know me know. I just wish that, like I said, anybody up there in that organization would kind of just let it go. Because I have. I moved on. I'm really focusing now on myself and this team, and trying to help us be the best team we could be. And that's really what it all comes down to and, like I said, there's a lot of misinformation that kind of has been fueled by some of the people up in that organization. I really wish they would just let it go. It's kind of ridiculous."

Randy McMichael said he would be carrying the No. 8 into Sunday's game because he knows how much this game would have meant to you. What do those comments mean to you?

Culpepper: "It definitely makes me feel good being encouraged by my teammates, and to have my teammates say those type of things about me. It makes me feel good and it makes me work that much harder to get myself better to go out and play side-by-side with them."

Would you expect anybody from the Vikings organization to approach you on Sunday?

Culpepper: "I don't know. I mean, I'd doubt it because this has been so ridiculous. But I have a lot of friends on the team that I'm pretty sure I'm going to see and give a hug and dap up and everything. But I don't know. To answer your question, I really couldn't tell you."

What do you think of the job Joey Harrington has been doing in your absence?

Culpepper: "I think Joey is doing a great job. He does what he's asked to do and whatever we have to do to help him and I can do to help him, we're going to do that."


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