Culpepper In the Middle of Shoe War

Daunte Culpepper remains in the middle of a dispute between two athletic corporate giants, and don't expect to see him stumping for Reebok ... for now anyway.

The shoe wars have gone to a new level.

On Friday, an Oregon judge ruled that Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper can't proceed with a scheduled commercial shoot Monday with Reebok until his current legal squabble with Oregon-based Nike is settled.

As VU reported earlier, Nike is suing Culpepper for breach of contract. His deal, signed as a rookie with Nike, expired in June. This month, he signed on with Reebok, an official NFL sponsor.

However, the shoot is being postponed because the judge's ruling says Culpepper must clear his legal hurdle with Nike, which claims his initial contract gave the shoe giant the right of first refusal -- meaning it could match any offer made to Culpepper from a competitor.

What does all this mean? Don't expect to see Daunte pushing Reebok any time soon.

* What status does Doug Chapman have with the Vikings? When Michael Bennett went down last year to injury, Chapman was the Vikings starter. He was the same guy who many thought was being groomed as Robert Smith's replacement when he was taken on the third round of the 2000 draft. Now, not only is he listed behind Moe Williams, he's fighting with James Wofford for the No. 3 spot.
* Stock dropping redux -- Kenny Wright was a starter last season. Now he's in the battle of his NFL life. Wright is currently listed at No. 3 at left cornerback, behind starter Corey Chavous and rookie Brian Williams. If Wright doesn't have a stellar training camp, he could be out of work in Minnesota.
* Linebacker Raonall Smith has pushed his way into a starting job, according to team depth charts. Although unsigned, the rookie linebacker is currently listed ahead of incumbent Lemanski Hall for a starting outside linebacker job.
* Speaking of linebackers, take this for what it's worth. The Seattle Seahawks cut LB Levon Kirkland Friday. Guess who one of the teams on a very short list for him to land? The Vikings. While VU has received no official confirmation from the Vikings, whether this is simply posturing by Kirkland's agent or a legitimate interest on the part of the Vikes, we'll leave that for you to decide.
* While VU keeps being told that all rookies will be signed by the start of training camp, the quiet rumors are circulating that it will be a tall order to have Bryant McKinnie in camp when it opens July 26.
* Sports Illustrated has had a reporter around Winter Park, asking questions for a one-year anniversary story on the death of Korey Stringer. There's no telling what the tone of the piece will be, but, if it was anything like this week's story in the Los Angeles Times, it won't portray the Vikings in a favorable light.

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