Schwartz: Daunte's Days As A Starter Not Over

Lions head coach Jim Schwartz gave veteran Daunte Culpepper a winning endorsement on Monday, even if he didn't give him the starting job. More inside ...

After appeasing the Matthew Stafford fanbase by naming the rookie his regular season starter, Lions coach Jim Schwartz wasted no time delivering high praise to the loser of Detroit's quarterback derby: veteran Daunte Culpepper.

Culpepper's infomercial-worthy weight loss during the off-season, which included dieting and a grueling training regimine, didn't necessarily earn him the rights to Detroit's first-team offense.

But it evidently won respect from the coaching staff.

Culpepper, a Pro Bowler during his glory days in Minnesota, was still early into a self-inflicted retirement until mid-season last year when then-interim GM Martin Mayhew recruited him off the living room couch. Culpepper's dormancy was noticeable, and his forced appearances under center yielded 11 turnovers in five contests.

Coupled with a bum knee and a shoulder injury that would eventually shelve him for the season, Culpepper was seemingly written off; another pitiful chapter in Detroit's horror novel of 2009.

Schwartz, who witnessed the resurgence of Kerry Collins while with Tennessee last year, said Monday that Culpepper's comeback wasn't far off from the ghosts of quarterback's past.

"I want to say that Daunte Culpepper is back," said Schwartz, a first-year head coach whom's gamble on Stafford could help define his career in the Motor City. "There is no doubt in my mind.

"I don't think there is any doubt around the league. The commitment that he made over the last six months to get back to being a starting NFL quarterback -– I mean that's obvious, that's apparent –- and he's going to be back as a starting quarterback sometime in this league."

The comments lend credence to the possibility of Detroit trading Culpepper, who yearns for a real opportunity to start. Behind Stafford, that isn't likely due to the commitment the franchise wants to demonstrate. But whether or not that opportunity exists elsewhere in the league isn't readily known. It might not be.

In the meantime, Culpepper, who didn't speak to the media after Schwartz announced his decision, might just have to deal with being a back-up -- even if his skillset exceeds the depth chart.

Despite losing his hard-earned opportunity to Stafford, Culpepper demonstrated a solid exhibition showing. He never turned the ball over, and posted a cumulative quarterback rating of 89.6. He also completed nearly 65 percent of his passes.

Schwartz tossed Culpepper's name into the bin with several quarterbacks who were able to resurrect their respective careers.

"We've seen that happen to a lot of different guys," he said. "I was in Tennessee with Kerry Collins who sat behind Vince Young for a while and Kerry was back in the Pro Bowl last year leading a playoff game.

"We've seen it happen to the Kurt Warner's of the world; we've seen it happen."

Notes: The Lions claimed DE Copeland Bryan, WR Yamon Figurs, CB Kevin Hobbs and CB Marcus McCauley from the waiver wire, and signed former Florida University quarterback Brock Berlin to the practice squad.

Schwartz was quick to warn that no one's job is safe -- regardless of perceptions of the 53-man roster.

"There's going to be a possibility of roster moves straight through the end of the season," said Schwartz. "I was very clear when I said that: our 53 is not going to be a scholarship for 16 games.

"You've got to prove yourself every week and every chance that we see to improve this team – whether it's waiver-wire, trade, picking up free agents that are on the street, rolling the practice squad – we're going to keep the thumb on these guys and expect performance not just on a 16-week basis but on a weekly basis."

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