The Leaders Are Smiling

Daunte Culpepper was happy with his restructured contract Monday, saying he was "very satisfied," and seeing Culpepper's smile made head coach Mike Tice happy. One defender was happy to be back, and another was happy to have stepped up the pressure for a starting position. It was a day of smiles in Mankato.

Daunte Culpepper had a big smile on his face Monday, addressing the media at training camp about his new contract.

"I feel like I'm getting (what I'm worth)," the quarterback said. "I'd say I'm satisfied, I'll tell you that much right now. I'm very satisfied."

The Vikings on Sunday adjusted Culpepper's 10-year contract, signed in May of 2003, by adding more than $7 million in guaranteed money, some $2 million this season.

"I'm just so pleased that my quarterback has got a smile on his face," said coach Mike Tice, who just found out about the restructured deal a couple of days ago. "He's a great player when he smiles, and he's a fierce competitor. Sometimes, those fierce competitors, if they don't smile, they don't have fun, all that ability doesn't come out. So I'm happy to see him smile."

Culpepper said that missing two practices on Saturday had nothing to do with contract negotiations. He said he needed to attend to some family matters that are now taken care of.

"Everybody handles their situation the best way that they feel personally," Culpepper said. "I'm glad that we were able to work some things behind the scenes because that is really the best way. We're trying to keep our momentum and keep everything going good and positive with the team."

It's possible that Culpepper's contract could be renegotiated again, sometime after the season.

"This is a step towards the direction that I want to get," Culpepper said. "I feel real confident that the Vikings organization is definitely going to be part of that, helping me get to that.

"I'm going to do my part, and I know they will because they told me."

Linebackers battle

Tice said that one of the best position battles in training camp is at strongside linebacker, where Napoleon Harris, acquired in the Randy Moss, is trying to keep his starting job over Keith Newman, who started 16 games, including two playoff games, last season.

"Keith's having a great camp, he really is," Tice said. "He really does not want to relinquish that starting job, even though it's kind of been, to this point, given to Napoleon."

He's back, just listen

Cornerback Fred Smoot was activated Monday from the physically-unable-to-perform list, and he went through his first training-camp practice, though the hour-long session was devoted to special teams. Known for his energy and enthusiasm, Smoot stepped right onto the first-team defense, opposite Antoine Winfield.

"He gets everybody excited," defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell said. "All the guys are going to be happy to have him out there."

Smoot, who strained a neck muscle while lifting weights about a week before camp, was getting anxious as the team took a cautious approach to his return.

"I'm real excited, I love to be out there with my teammates," Smoot said. "I love to play the game, and not practicing hurt."

The Missing

Offensive lineman Shannon Snell had not returned to practice as of Monday morning, having flown home to Florida to be with his wife and newborn twins, who were born prematurely and experiencing some complications. Tice said he expected Snell to be in Mankato later Monday.

Viking Update Top Stories