Competitors Sing Culpepper's Praises

Remember all that fan talk about moving Daunte Culpepper to defense after a poor rookie preseason in 1999? You don't hear that anymore, but that's not to say Culpepper wouldn't be a pretty good football player at any position.

"Daunte Culpepper, if he was not a quarterback, could be a running back in this league, and a damn good one. On top of that, he can throw," Packers quarterback Brett Favre said of his Vikings counterpart.

Other than Daunte Culpepper, can you think of another quarterback in the NFL — past or present — with the physical abilities to play virtually any position?

The answer is "No." But Culpepper could.

At 6-foot-4, 260-plus pounds and speed in the 4.6 range, he has the physical tools to excel at just about any spot on the field.

Can you imagine Culpepper as a running back? Easily. As a wide receiver? Yep. As a tight end? He'd be a Pro Bowler. How about a pulling guard? Randall McDaniel in his prime. A weakside end? Now there's your weakside pass rusher. A strongside linebacker? Dominant. A jumbo-sized strong safety? Talk about run support.

While Culpepper's size-speed-athletic ability ratio is rare, especially for a quarterback, he's not the first big, strong, fast player to ever play the position. But what makes him so special is that he is, in fact, a natural quarterback.

Besides the obvious physical tools for the position, he's physically and mentally tough and intensely competitive. He shows superb field instincts, excellent arm strength and can throw all the passes with timing, touch and accuracy. He throws short, the deep out and downfield effectively. He moves the ball around nicely and does a good job of taking what the defense offers. He is a poised leader who doesn't get rattled under pressure. He can be impossible to tackle one-on-one and has the mobility and foot speed to buy time or run for positive yardage.

This being said, he's still learning, growing and getting better.

"Daunte makes some mistakes," head coach Dennis Green said. "But he's also making a lot of terrific plays."

Though still in the developmental stages of his career, Culpepper has already earned tremendous respect from coaches around the league.

"Daunte certainly presents a huge problem for us because of his accuracy throwing the football and because he is a big man," Packers coach Mike Sherman said recently. "The thing that amazes me about this guy is that, No. 1, he played as a rookie (actually his second year in the league) and had a Pro Bowl year, and No. 2, that he is a heady guy and he is physical. He just does things the right way, and I am just very impressed with him."

As a runner from the quarterback position, there is perhaps none more dangerous.

In fact, opponents preparing to face Culpepper have actually practiced hitting a big bag that hangs from a pole and is weighted down in excess of 275 pounds.

But the praise he receives is for both his passing skills and his running ability.

"It is amazing to watch this man, as big as he is, run … and score … rushing for touchdowns and still throw the ball with accuracy," Sherman added. "I think he is 66 percent accurate on his passing."

Culpepper is quite simply a rare talent. "There isn't another quarterback like him … that big and that fast," Green Bay safety Darren Sharper said. "I don't think there ever has been."

He is the total package.

When Culpepper became the starter last season, Green made it clear that he didn't have to carry the team, that all he had to do was drive the car. But with the much-talked-about turnover in personnel (losing Robert Smith, Korey Stringer and Todd Steussie) on offense, simply "driving the car" hasn't been enough. He's had to be a chauffeur to the offense.

"A lot of it is riding on Daunte, obviously," Green said. "Just like all the good teams, we ride on Daunte. He's a tremendous athlete and a tremendous competitor."

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