Vikings-Packers Personnel Preview

The Vikings are hoping former Packer Darren Sharper can shed some insight on Green Bay's personnel and end a torturous two weeks while the Packers are preparing for Daunte Culpepper's best shot.


Last week it was the Twin Cities media that focused on the allegations of a sex party being held by a group of Vikings players who chartered a boat during the bye week.

This week the national press descended upon Winter Park with questions that had little to do with the Vikings' 1-4 start or Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers at the Metrodome.

Players have once again tried to keep their focus on the game and getting back into the race in the weak NFC North. For free safety Darren Sharper, that has been a bit easier.

Sharper spent his first eight seasons with the Packers before being released after last season in a salary-cap move. He quickly signed with the Vikings.

"It's going to be exciting," Sharper said of facing the Packers. "It's one of those games that when the schedule came out during the off-season I underlined and I did everything I could to make it stand out on the schedule. It's going to be an exciting game. I'm looking forward to having some of my old guys, guys I've been with for a lot of years. I have a lot of good memories."

Although Sharper elected to sign with one of the Packers' biggest rivals, he claims there are no hard feelings.

"No, not at all," Sharper said. "I've had a lot of great memories there and still do. A lot of people ask me that and I compare it to a marriage. Marriages sometimes end after 20-30 years, but that doesn't mean you don't still love the other person. It just comes to the point where it's time to split.

"It doesn't mean that I have any ill will or any animosity toward Green Bay because they allowed me to become the player that I am today and to have the career that I've had thus far. It just comes to a point sometimes where you go in different directions. That's what it came down to."


  • WR Nate Burleson will return Sunday after missing three games because of a sprained posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

  • DE Spencer Johnson is expected to miss a second consecutive game because of a medial collateral sprain in his right knee.

  • CB Brian Williams was back at practice this week but isn't expected to play for a third straight game because of a sprained left knee.

  • G Toniu Fonoti spent Wednesday having his fractured left hand examined by team doctors so the trade with San Diego could be finalized. Coach Mike Tice indicated it could be several weeks before Fonoti can play. Fonoti is expected to battle for the starting spot at right guard, which could mean rookie Marcus Johnson will move to right tackle.

  • NT Pat Williams missed Thursday's practice because of a family illness.

  • The Vikings signed defensive end Earl Cochran to their practice squad.


    In coach Mike Sherman's words, "Trust me, we're going to prepare for Daunte Culpepper's best shot because I'm sure we'll get it."

    Sherman wasn't kidding, making the declaration Wednesday with a straight, bordering-on-concerned face. Forget all the troubles the Vikings quarterback has endured early in the season - a league-leading 12 interceptions, as well as 24 sacks to trail only David Carr's 30 - the Packers are expecting to see the other side of Culpepper on Sunday at Minnesota.

    An all-too-familiar other side, underscored by mistake-free football.

    In the last five meetings between the teams, dating to the season opener in 2003, Culpepper hasn't had a pass intercepted. He's completed 98 of 160 passes for 1,329 yards and 16 touchdowns in that impeccable span.

    The 2004 season alone, Culpepper was a scintillating 62-of-96 passing for 932 yards and 11 TDs. Although Minnesota lost both regular-season encounters with the Packers, it didn't squander a four-touchdown performance by Culpepper in winning an NFC wild-card playoff game 31-17 at Green Bay.

    Yet Culpepper hasn't been the same since, seemingly overrun and unnerved by no longer having top receiver Randy Moss, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and a sturdy offensive line.

    Consequently, in less than a year, the perception has been that Culpepper has degenerated from an MVP-caliber quarterback into a seventh-year veteran whose best days are behind him. Packers counterpart Brett Favre scoffed at such a suggestion in defending his division rival this week.

    "I think anyone who has any football sense at all knows that these five games are no indication of what type of quarterback he is," Favre said. "It just goes to show that we're all human. At times, it doesn't go your way.

    "I'm sure he's pressing a lot, and I know that he's a great competitor (and) is a very good quarterback. And when it doesn't go the way you would like, you feel like it's you and you've got to do something more, and then you press and then it just gets worse. And you want everyone around you to think the way you do, and you want to get this thing back on track, and sometimes, guys go the other way. And you're trying to raise your level of play, and other guys are just trying to get through."

    Moss invariably was a thorn in the side of the Packers in his seven years in Minnesota. While players and coaches acknowledged that the game plan for defending the Vikings changes without the presence of Moss, who generally attracted double coverage, the Packers secondary will be on its toes Sunday.

    Minnesota is expected to have Nate Burleson on the field after he missed the last three games with a knee injury. He torched the Packers for career highs of 11 catches and 141 yards at Green Bay in the first meeting last season, then had a personal-best 68-yard reception for a touchdown in a Christmas Eve rematch in Minneapolis.

    "All the receivers they have are capable of making plays and have done it in the past. All it takes is for them to catch one ball and run with it to get them going," Packers safety Mark Roman said. "We can't really say, ‘They ain't got Randy, so it's going to be a walk in the park for us.'

    "It's still going to be a competitive game. I don't see how you can say it's going to be an easy game because Moss isn't there."


  • RB Ahman Green practiced Thursday for the second straight day and appears ready to return to the starting lineup Sunday. Green is listed as questionable on the injury report with a bruised right knee and a strained quadriceps tendon in the same leg that kept him out of the last game.

  • TE Bubba Franks also practiced for the second day in a row and could be cleared to play Sunday. He's questionable for the game, still not 100 percent recovered from a torn MCL in his left knee sustained in Week 2. The injury kept Franks out of two games, and he was activated for emergency purposes in the last game, getting on the field for only two plays in a blocking capacity.

  • C Mike Flanagan has yet to practice this week and appears unlikely to play Sunday. He remains listed as questionable on the injury report. He is doing rehab work after undergoing surgery for a sports hernia Oct. 5. Scott Wells is prepared to make his second straight start in Flanagan's absence.

  • S Earl Little also remains sidelined with a strained hamstring that he suffered in the Oct. 3 loss at Carolina. The backup is questionable to play Sunday.

  • OLB Na'il Diggs, expected to be out until mid-November, did some change-of-direction drills Thursday for the first time since he sustained a torn MCL in his right knee during the Oct. 3 game. Diggs reported no setback after he began jogging Wednesday.

  • RB Najeh Davenport appeared in the team's Lambeau Field locker room after practice Thursday for the first time since he suffered a season-ending broken right ankle during the Oct. 9 win over New Orleans.

    Davenport, who started in place of Green and scored two rushing touchdowns, said he had two fractures of the lower fibula and also ligament damage. Pins were inserted in the ankle, which was set in a cast. Davenport has been walking with the aid of crutches.

    He expects to have the cast removed by Monday, at which time he can begin rehab. His prognosis is to be back running by mid-March.

    Davenport will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. In the wake of the injury, he doubts the Packers will enter into negotiations for a new contract before the off-season.

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