View From The Backup

Quarterback Gus Frerotte never knows when and if he'll play in his current situation with the Vikings, but he knows what he sees in starter Daunte Culpepper. He believes Culpepper is ready for the next step but still has areas he needs to improve. ... Plus, Mike Tice elaborates on the Keith Newman signing and notes from today's practice.

Gus Frerotte is uncertain of his own future, both his playing status from day to day and where he'll end up next year.

The 11-year veteran of the National Football League would like to get the opportunity to start with another team after his contract with the Vikings expires in March 2005, and keeping his skills sharp this year could be the stepping stone to that next chance.

"I'm not saying I will, but if I do play some more this year, hopefully I'll have a few more good games and get a chance. If not, I know I can be a backup in this league for a long time. I want to start. This is no fun watching," Frerotte said after a recent developmental camp workout.

"I don't really worry about that now during the year, but next year prior to free agency I'll call my agent and start looking around. One guy can have a bad year and he's out. Look at Kerry Collins and Kurt Warner, it doesn't take long for them to get rid of a player anymore even if he's high paid or an MVP."

That isn't likely to happen with Daunte Culpepper, a two-time Pro Bowl player entering his sixth NFL season. Frerotte knows that, and he knows his role with the Vikings as long as Culpepper is healthy. He is Culpepper's in-season player-coach.

"Coaches are able to talk to him now and relate to him now and tell them what they're thinking, but more in-season when they're really busy putting together game plans and watching film. Daunte and I can get together during the games and during practice and I can tell him what I'm thinking," Frerotte said.

What Frerotte thinks now is that Culpepper has only a few things he needs to improve before he is an all-around quarterback.

"I think the biggest thing for Daunte is becoming more of a leader, being more vocal with these guys and getting them to play a little harder for him. I think (he is doing that now)," Frerotte said. "There comes a point where (being judged) only on your play isn't good enough as a quarterback. It becomes an all-around thing, leading, getting everybody to do the right thing and putting pressure on those guys to do the right thing, to let them know that they have consequences with the coach, but they also will have consequences with the quarterback, with the leader of the team. That's the way it's supposed to be.

"I think he's at that point now. He's got the contract, he's got the head coach behind him, the OC (offensive coordinator) behind him, so that whatever he does out there or tells guys to do, they're going to let him tell them and be OK with it. If you're a new starter coming in and you don't have that confidence of the head coach or OC, it's hard for you to get in the face of an O-lineman and tell him ‘Don't jump offsides anymore!' If they don't stick up for you, then it doesn't mean anything. I think he's at that point where he can take on that leadership, and I think he'll do that this year."

Frerotte was that leader last year when he came on in relief of an injured Culpepper and started two more games in 2003. He threw four touchdown passes in his first start and set a team record with a 157.2 passer rating. He finished the season completing 38 of 65 pass attempts for 690 yards, seven touchdowns, two interceptions and a 118.1 rating.

Still, he believes Culpepper is poised to improve his leadership skills and add to all the physical talent the Vikings' 1999 first-round draft pick possesses.

"He's got them all — all the physical skills — the height, strength speed, quickness. He can do it all," Frerotte said of Culpepper. "He can keep getting better on reading the defense. He does a great job of seeing it when he has to run with the ball. He's just got to keep improving every day."

As for Frerotte's future, he plans to keep playing as a backup or starter in the NFL "until they kick me out," he said. "What else am I going to do?"

Actually, along with searching for that starting role in 2005, he plans on starting his Master's program in landscape architecture next year at the University of Colorado at Denver.

The Newman Factor
Head coach Mike Tice made it clear that he didn't want people to perceive the signing of linebacker Keith Newman as a reaction to the arrests of linebackers E.J. Henderson and Mike Nattiel over the weekend.

In fact, as VU reported a month ago, the Vikings were interested in looking at Newman and Jeremiah Trotter after their May minicamp.

"We think (Newman) brings a guy that has started in this league. We think he's an excellent pass rusher. I think his statistics show that. He's a guy that Teddy (Cottrell) is familiar with, but the main thing is it gives us a little more experience," Tice said.

"We had initiated contact with him two months ago. This is something we've been looking at and wanted to make a decision after we got some time with our young players. We felt like we were in fact a little young there."

Tice also said the team released veteran linebacker Henri Crockett last month because he wasn't going to be a starter and wasn't a special teams player, so he didn't have much of a role. Even if Newman doesn't start, he can be used as a pass rusher from the linebacker position.

NOTES
* Tice will host the local NFL Alumni chapter for a BBQ at Winter Park tomorrow following the team's developmental camp practice at 12:45 p.m. Many of alumni are expected to be in attendance for the practice as well. Tice will donate $10,000 to Our Children's Homestead from the "Player Fine Fund."
* The Vikings' 2004 charity golf tournament has been moved up this year. In recent years, the tournament was days before training camp opened. This year, the Vikings are having it Thursday at Rush Creek Golf Club in Maple Grove. The tournament, which is sold out, will benefit the Viking Children's Fund. Many of the Vikings players and coaches will be participating.
* Tight end Jermaine Wiggins was back practicing Tuesday after taking yesterday off to attend to more personal matters.
* Former Minnesota Gophers quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq was not working out with the Vikings again today. He worked out Monday but will not be signed by the club in the near future.
* Newly signed linebacker Keith Newman participated in some plays Tuesday, working mainly over the tight end. Being new to the team, it was little surprise when he gave up a touchdown to Lane Danielsen on the final play of practice when he left the middle of the field open. Newman is wearing former Viking Henri Crockett's number 52.
* Lewis Kelly, who is expected to be a backup at guard and center, is seeing some repetitions at tackle as well.
* Punters Darren Bennett and Eddie Johnson both looked consistent kicking with the wind during a limited special teams session.
* At 343 pounds, guard David Dixon did not look the part when he was trying to field two punts. He couldn't get to Johnson's first offering. Later, Dixon camped under a booming, high spiral but missed that one too when it when it went through his hands and hit his thigh. It gave most in attendance a good chuckle and ended Dixon's rotation with the regular punt returners.

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