Team to Wait and See With Culpepper

This is the last image many of us have seen of Daunte Culpepper. While we wait for him to have surgery on his injured knee, some have already questioned whether the Vikings will stand pat on his contract -- which has $6 million in bonus money due next spring.

It may sound absurd, but depending on the severity of Daunte Culpepper's knee injury, the Vikings may be forced to look at either trying to restructure his contract or consider the option that he may have played his final down with the Vikings.

While that may seem like an arcane concept – he just signed a 10-year, $102 million contract that was re-worked prior to the start of the 2005 season to compensate Culpepper as a franchise player, he will be due $8 million in 2006 -- $2 million in base salary and $6 million in bonus money due in mid-March. His surgery, which isn't going to happen for another couple of weeks, is expected to require as much as 12-18 months for recuperation time. Under that scenario, Culpepper wouldn't be available until mid-November at best and not until 2007 at worst.

The Vikings training staff had hinted that, if the surgery goes well, Culpepper might be ready for training camp next year. Others believe the more likely recovery time would be the 18 months it took running back Willis McGahee to recover from his injury.

If Culpepper is truly the franchise player the team has consistently said he is, they will likely swallow hard, pay out $8 million next year and hope to get No. 11 back as soon as they can. But, in a business where players like Randy Moss can get traded and the team balks at guaranteeing center Matt Birk's salary for 2006 so he will continue to play through pain in 2005, nothing seems guaranteed anymore.

* Brad Johnson makes his 100th career start today – his first since Oct. 3, 2004 and his first at the Metrodome since the season opener of 1998.
* The Vikings have won the last six meetings with the Lions and 11 of the last 12. Culpepper is 9-0 in his career vs. Detroit and coach Mike Tice is 6-0 (he's 19-31 against the rest of the NFL as a head coach).
* The Vikings are 21-5 in their last 26 home games vs. division opponents.
* Many former Vikings will be on hand Sunday to honor Jerry Burns, who revolutionized the NFL as offensive coordinator of the Vikings under Bud Grant before becoming head coach. Burns adapted an offense that later came to prominence as the West Coast Offense, incorporating the short passing game using running backs and tight ends and, in the process, making Chuck Foreman the prototype for the rushing-receiving hybrid running back.
* Kevin Williams has just one sack through seven games. In his first two seasons, he had 22 sacks.
* The Vikings have a pair of 28's that they clearly aren't proud of. The team has the 28th rated scoring defense and the 28th-rated scoring offense in the league. Last year, the Vikings were sixth in scoring offense – averaging 25.3 points a game. They've topped that number just once this season and are averaging a woeful 14.7 ppg.
* The Lions have the 29th-rated offense in the league (22nd rushing and 27th passing), while the Vikings come into the game rated No. 24 on offense (27th rushing and 15th passing). Defensively, the Lions rank 10th (13th vs. the run and 14th vs. the pass). The Vikings remain near the bottom again this year despite making numerous personnel changes. The ranks 27th overall (29th vs. the run and 23rd vs. the pass).
* If history means anything, Corey Chavous could be in for a big day. He has five career interceptions vs. the Lions – as well as both of his career touchdowns.
* Keep an eye on Nate Burleson today. The last time he played the Lions, he caught five passes for 134 yards and two TDs.
* Vikings punter Chris Kluwe continues to the lead the NFL in punting with an amazing 47.2-yard average. Seahawks punter Leo Araguz, who was kept when the team cut Kluwe, is averaging seven yards less per punt.
* Some Vikings fans were jumping up and down when they learned the team opted for WR Troy Williamson instead of Mike Williams. VU has been told that the Lions aren't too happy with their rookie WR. He has never made the weight bonuses that were written into his contract, he has been singled out for consistently being late to team meetings and has been said to have something of an attitude problem – a must for the modern-day NFL wide receiver.
* Joey Harrington has a career record of 0-5 vs. the Vikings with five TDs and 11 interceptions.
* The Lions have allowed just 28 points in the second half this year – an average of just four points a game. It's the lowest total of any team in the NFL.
* The Vikings committed 12 turnovers in their first two games. In the five games since, they have just six turnovers.

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