What Is Pepp's Status?

The scheduled face-to-face meeting between Daunte Culpepper and coach Brad Childress never materialized last week and speculation is growing as to Culpepper's status with the team.

Daunte Culpepper has done his best Claude Rains imitation over the past few months since being injured Oct. 30 -- he's truly been an invisible man.

While acknowledged as the team leader and franchise player, Culpepper has been conspicuously absent from games since his injury and almost impossible to locate by team officials and the media since his injury.

Whether it be hard work at rehabbing the injury or merely sulking, when Culpepper didn't find time to meet face to face with his new head coach, it set off alarms with some in the media that it could be the beginning of the end of his time in Minnesota.

Despite having his deal re-worked last year to give him a $6 million bonus due March 14, Culpepper and his agent are looking to have his deal changed even further. Under his current contract, Culpepper has $15 million in guaranteed money -- a figure dwarfed by rookie Alex Smith ($24 million) and less than half of the guaranteed cash for Peyton Manning ($35 million) or Michael Vick ($37 million).

Does Culpepper deserve to get his deal redone? Considering the hard stance the team took toward Matt Birk, who in essence served as an assistant coach after going down with injury last year, the answer should be no. Whether it is or not will play out in the next few weeks.

THURSDAY NOTES
* Pete Bercich was interviewed Wednesday and informed by Brad Childress that he won't be back with the team as its linebackers coach.
* The only coach from last year with a chance of surviving the purge of coaches is DB coach Chuck Knox, but he's been given permission to seek employment elsewhere.
* Culpepper's agent is looking to re-open contract talks above the $7.5 million moved to guaranteed bonus money last year. Culpepper will have a $9.4 million salary cap number in 2006.
* If the Vikings were to trade Culpepper this spring, they would save $2.4 million vs. the cap because of the bonuses shifted around to this year.
* Childress fired athletic trainer Chuck Barta Wednesday. Barta and Fred Zamberletti have been the only trainers in team history. He is expected to be replaced by Eagles assistant trainer Eric Sugarman.

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