Vikings receiver Randy Moss has had problems with his right ankle since he injured it playing pickup basketball during the summer before his rookie season in 1998.
But a recent report in the New York Times indicated the injury might be cause for greater concern than anyone has thought. An unidentified Vikings official told the Times that Moss might have a degenerative condition that could, over a period of years, drastically weaken the receiver's ankle.
Moss, who signed an eight-year, $75 million deal during the offseason, has not been the dominant player that Vikings fans have come to expect this season. Entering Sunday's game at Pittsburgh, he has 53 receptions for 734 yards and six touchdowns.
Three of those scores came in the Vikings' Week 10 victory over the New York Giants. However, Moss was ineffective Sunday night in the loss to Chicago, catching four passes for only 25 yards.
Vikings coach Dennis Green told the Times that exploratory surgery at season's end was a strong possibility for Moss. "I think we need to go in and see what's happening," Green said. "I think that will happen."
Green called Moss' ankle condition "chronic. It gets better and then if he's tackled the wrong way, it hurts again. That is something that concerns you."
Culpepper has MRI
Quarterback Daunte Culpepper, who sustained a contusion on his left knee in the loss to Chicago, was having an MRI today because the pain has persisted.
"We didn't think we needed an MRI, but it hasn't got a whole lot better since the game, so we're going to get one today," Culpepper said.
Culpepper said he was confident he would be ready to play against the Steelers. Green, however, admitted he was concerned. "Absolutely," he said. "He's got swelling in there and we're hoping that that swelling will be reduced."
When it was pointed out that Culpepper has played injured before, Green responded: "He has. The big thing, though, you need mobility, the style of play. But I think that we'll just work hard on the rehab and Daunte is doing that. We think it will heal up pretty good."
Green said Culpepper would be listed as probable on the injury report.
On the mend
Left guard Corbin Lacina returned to practice the week of the Bears game but did not play against Chicago. But getting back on the field is an important step for Lacina, who had been sidelined since injuring his left calf in the first quarter of the Vikings' game in Tampa on Oct. 28.
"It feels really good," he said. "It has a little bit left in there, but as far as the way I feel like I'm moving, I'm moving really fast right now. So, I feel even quicker. (When you're out), you do a lot more working out actually. I feel really good. We'll just see how it goes."
Lacina, who has battled a variety of injuries this season, admitted some frustration.
"The thing is that is part of the NFL," Lacina said. "You stay off the operating table, minor stuff is going to come up. You just take it and, I'll tell you what, just getting back into it shows you how much you miss the game. You just have a taste in your mouth, a hunger."
While there might be some rust, Lacina isn't too concerned. "In the past that hasn't been any problem," he said. "You definitely have to get used to the speed again, but the key I think for that is when you're in practice you go full speed, whatever you are doing, so you are used to moving at that pace. Then you get in the game and it just carries over."
Culpepper is the Vikings' representative as the winner of the Ed Block award. The honor is voted on by the players.
"I think it's really indicative of the kind of leadership Daunte has, the respect he has by his teammates, the amount of commitment he has to the community. And for him to accomplish this as a 24-year-old, third-year player is pretty amazing," Green said.
Culpepper will receive the award in March at a dinner in Baltimore.
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