Although Daunte Culpepper was sacked six times in the Vikings' 28-15 loss at New Orleans in Week 4, the big quarterback surprised many by not attempting to run the ball once.
That was certainly not a sign of things to come.
In the next two games, Culpepper rushed for 154 yards on 16 carries and three touchdowns — victories over the Lions and Packers.
Against Detroit, Culpepper led the Vikings with 83 yards rushing on seven carries and two touchdowns, including a 33-yarder. He ran for 71 yards on nine carries and had a 14-yard touchdown run against the Packers. He led the way in Tampa Bay again Sunday, despite suffering a broken nose on the first series.
His 34-yard run against Green Bay was the fifth-longest by a Vikings quarterback and it was his seventh career run longer than 20 yards. That gave him 749 career rushing yards, moving him past Rich Gannon into second place among quarterbacks in team history, behind Fran Tarkenton (2,543).
In six games, Culpepper had a team-leading 273 yards on 41 carries with five touchdowns. Not surprisingly, he is the only NFL quarterback to lead his team in rushing.
While the 6-foot-4, 260-pound Culpepper is big enough to take on many defenders, one has to wonder how much of a pounding he can take before it starts to show in his performance.
Evidently, Culpepper isn't too concerned. "I feel great," he said. "I've been getting in the cold tub, the sauna, just taking care of my body, making sure I'm ready to play each Sunday. I feel good."
Last season, Culpepper was second behind Robert Smith among Vikings rushers, finishing with 470 yards on 89 carries and seven touchdowns, which tied Smith.
"I love to run the ball because I just love to play," he said. "I love to play football, whether it is throwing or running. But whatever it takes to move the chains. I don't really care whether it is throwing or running."
Of course, every time Culpepper leaves the pocket he chances taking one hard hit or spraining an ankle. But he remains confident he will make the right decision about when to take off from the pocket.
"I know my body," he said. "I know myself. I know what I can do. You play, and if something freaky happens and you get hurt, it's part of the game. But for the most part you've just got to be smart and try to hope that it doesn't happen."
Culpepper Not Concerned About His Running
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