Culpepper Situation Still Not Crystal Clear

Vikings owner Zygi Wilf says the team plans on paying Daunte Culpepper's $6 million roster bonus in mid-March, the strongest indication yet that he will return. But earlier comments still seem to make it less than a locked-in certainty.

There have been few dull moments when it comes to the relationship between the Vikings and quarterback Daunte Culpepper in recent weeks.

In story that seems to change daily, the latest twist came Feb. 23 when Culpepper sent a statement to the media via e-mail revealing a conversation he had with team owner Zygi Wilf. In the e-mail, Culpepper contradicted reports by saying Wilf, "told me that the Vikings have not yet spoken to other teams about trading me."

The Vikings reportedly called Baltimore and Miami recently to gauge their interest in Culpepper.

Culpepper went on to say: "I shared my disappointment with the lack of communication and the false reports about me demanding more money coming out of Minnesota. I have requested further talks so that we can explore options for the future.

"In the meantime, I have made a good faith gesture toward the organization by offering to move my roster bonus around if it will help clear more cap space to sign free agents. If I am not traded, I want to help coach (Brad) Childress make a serious run for the championship this year."

Childress, speaking to the media at the NFL Scouting Combine on Friday, admitted the Vikings have been contacted about Culpepper and said he had received some calls.

Culpepper, who tore three ligaments in his right knee last October and has been rehabbing in Florida, is due a $6 million roster bonus on March 17. There have been reports that Culpepper is unhappy with his contract and has told the Vikings that he wants a significant raise.

The contract already was adjusted last training camp after Culpepper staged what amounted to a one-day holdout. Childress did not rule out possibly releasing Culpepper, saying, "You don't ever say never at this time of year. Never and always are two long periods of time."

In his e-mail Culpepper attempted to back away from any demand for additional compensation.

"All of the discussion about me being traded or cut has helped me realize that the contract I have ran out of guarantees the day I was injured," he said. "Therefore each year they pay you to play is a gift. I expect that if there are no changes to my present contract then I should prepare for a year by year commitment. When I am ready to hit the field this year, wherever it may be, I plan on being better than ever and enjoying the ride."

The interesting thing about Culpepper volunteering to move his roster bonus around is that the Vikings are among the few teams in the NFL that don't need help when it comes to the salary cap. Minnesota is thought to be about $23 million under the cap.

NOTES

  • New coach Brad Childress plans to hold his first minicamp two weeks before the NFL draft on April 29-30. Childress also will have a minicamp shortly after the draft.

  • Childress is aware that a handful of Vikings have expressed a desire to keep Daunte Culpepper but it's doubtful those opinions will carry any weight. "It's not a mind-control business," he said. "Guys, they have opinions as well and in a lot of instances they are going to state those opinions. As I mentioned to you, Daunte's a good football player and you don't want to lose good football players. He's a got a long way to come back from this injury and that's my focus right now."

  • Childress recently met with veteran Brad Johnson, who would become the Vikings' starting quarterback if Culpepper departs.

  • Matt Sheldon, whom the Vikings hired Jan. 13 as a defensive assistant, has left the staff to become linebackers coach for the Buffalo Bills.

  • Former Vikings coach Bud Grant has been named co-chairman of Minnesota Momentum, a group of Vikings fans and other Minnesotans who will advocate for team owner Zigy Wilf's stadium and development project in Anoka County.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think they definitely should shop him and get him out of the division. I don't know if that's the case or not. I just know that he's an excellent football player. He's caused us to stay up quite a bit trying to defend him." - Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith, jokingly giving his thoughts on the rumors the Vikings are shopping Daunte Culpepper.

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