Lurtsema's Reaction: Culpepper and Hutchinson

How could the Vikings' relationship with Daunte Culpepper go so bad so quickly? And what about spending all that big money on guard Steve Hutchinson? Former Viking Bob Lurtsema gives his analysis on one wild week in Minnesota Vikings history.

VU: Where do you think things went wrong with Daunte Culpepper? Where did things go so bad that they felt they had to trade him?

The thing with Daunte is that they didn't really have any bargaining power with that terrible knee injury that he had, and you've got to think that part of that Love Boat situation is not the character Zygi Wilf wants and had a big part to play in it as well. I know he's innocent until proven guilty, but I think that had something to do with it. Zygi wants that solid character and the players in the community. Daunte came back and hit them with so many negatives, really just one after another. I have no idea where Daunte was coming from after all his hard work, being first in all the drills, a passion for the game and loves it. He came out of nowhere. I don't know whether that injury changed his thought process or what, but I wish him well. I'll always respected him, but with a new system in there he ought to be up here. Brad Johnson will handle it in a heartbeat.

VU: Do you know any reason why Daunte didn't want to be up here and working on that system?

No. That's the part that confuses me. With all the positives, great heart and positive work ethic, it absolutely blew my mind. I have no idea unless it was the embarrassment of the Love Boat situation.

VU: You know the terms of seven years and $49 million for Steve Hutchinson. Are you surprised by how much money the Vikings were willing to put toward a position of guard like that?

You have to give Zygi credit here. When I introduced him at a golf tournament (last year), the first time I got to meet Zygi, he told everybody in attendance that he will spend as much as he can to bring a championship to the state of Minnesota. He said it would be within the guidelines of the cap and that he was still going to run it as a business, but the first thing he stated was that we're going to spend money and we have to get the players up here. So it doesn't surprise me that he was spending it, but for a guard? That surprises me, but everything starts up front. If you don't give Brad Johnson or any other quarterback enough time to throw or be able to go through his reads, you're in trouble. I think they want to establish that running game for the West Coast Offense and really be very diversified like the Dallas Cowboys of old. The reason I say Dallas Cowboys rather than San Francisco is that they threw so many different formations at a defense that they really tried to create confusion. I think they're going to approach it that way.

VU: With Hutchinson signed, do you feel like, with that and Matt Birk coming back full strength, does that solve all the offensive line problems that they had last year?

The thing there is to be able to run tackle-to-tackle consistently, that's what the NFL is all about and that's what championship teams do. If you've got a strong left side and you've got three Pro Bowlers, because Bryant McKinnie should have gone to the Pro Bowl last year, you'd have three Pro Bowlers on one side and a big, strong fullback leading the way. I'm telling you that as a defensive player of the past you've got to overload that side. Once you overload one side, you're going to be more vulnerable on the other side and it opens a lot of things up. I just think they're going to pound it at you and lead with the fullback, and you could have Mewelde Moore cutting back. I think you'll get a lot more 8- to 10-yard gains than they have in the past.

VU: If they don't sign a proven fullback, do you think there is a chance that they'd use Jim Kleinsasser in that role again?

All day long. It'd be nice to have Kleinsasser as the ace in the hole. Jimmy came on every game last year and got better and better, and I don't mean his ability, just in coordination and confidence. You could see as he was running and cutting that he was becoming more and more confident with his leg and that injury he had two years ago.

VU: I thought one of the reasons Mike Tice moved him back to tight end was because of the injury concerns with him at fullback?

All you negative people out there, when you start worrying about injuries and you start putting that in a player's head, you have destroyed that player. The Chicago Bears didn't want anybody to get hurt right before the playoffs — look what happened to them. The Colts, that was the dumbest thing they ever did was to pull the regulars out — we don't want them to get hurt. Don't ever, ever bring an injury idea to a football player because it would absolutely destroy him. A coach should never, ever say that.

VU: Defensively, what do you think is their biggest need yet? You might say linebacker, but there really isn't any value out there anymore, and it's the same thing at safety.

Well, you lost Corey Chavous and Brian Williams, and I don't know how deep the defensive backs were. The thing with Fred Smoot right now, all I've heard is a lot of talk. I am not a big fan. Some players are talkers, and he might have all the potential in the world, but he's not backing up his talk. I don't mind people having fun as long as they can back it up.

VU: OK, so what do you think is the most pressing need on defense?

You've got to get defensive backs. You'd be surprised how much better their defensive linemen will be, especially their ends, when you give us some better coverage backs. You just give us a split second longer when that quarterback brings the ball down, so I would have to say defensive backs. Corey Chavous was awful good back there and I liked the way Brian Williams played.

VU: You're buddy, Brady Smith, is a free agent defensive end …

I was just with him. Brady is going to retire. I was told from Brady's lips that he's going to retire.

Bob Lurtsema was a 12-year veteran defensive lineman in the NFL, playing with the Baltimore Colts, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks, and the longtime publisher of Viking Update. He joins for a weekly Q & A session, and his monthly column appears in the magazine.

Viking Update Top Stories