Culpepper Under Fire?

Rumors have begun circulating that Daunte Culpepper will have to play almost mistake-free ball Sunday or he may not finish the game.

It was a question Mike Tice didn't want to hear -- much less hear multiple times phrased differently. The questions concerned the potential of benching Daunte Culpepper.

Culpepper and the Vikings have the most turnovers in the NFL with 20 through six games. The odds tell you if you commit three turnovers in a game, you will lose 80 percent of the time. With the Vikings averaging 3.3 turnovers a game, it's little wonder that the team is at 1-5.

However, for now, Tice remains committed to Culpepper as his starter and Todd Bouman as his backup. That commitment may change Sunday, from what VU is being told.

Tice said he has simplified the offense to reduce the chances for turnovers, but it doesn't change the fact that, if Culpepper continues to struggle, a change may be needed. Perhaps just for a half of one game to make a point. Perhaps longer. Bouman is ready to step in if called upon, and Tice knows that benching Culpepper could have a devisive effect on the team. But, it's his job to make the tough decisions and, if Culpepper continues to struggle and turn the ball over, it's a choice he may need to make.

FRIDAY NOTES
* Bears DE Bryan Robinson won't play Sunday. He's voluntarily entered the league's substance abuse program after being arrested for his second DWI in four months. He has been placed on the physically unable to perform list by the Bears.
* As expected, Doug Chapman was released from an Edina hospital Thursday and won't do any physical activity for at least three weeks.
* D'Wayne Bates continues to be a big question mark for Sunday. Indications are that he may be a deactivation Sunday. In that event, Cedric James would be added to the active roster.
* Hayden Epstein had an unceremonious debut with the Vikings, slipping and falling on his first kickoff since replacing Doug Brien. However, the rest of the practice went well and the Vikings are confident he can knock kickoffs consistently into the end zone, something Brien was unable to do in the last several games.
* Three Bears -- tight ends John Davis and Fred Baxter and CB R.W. McQuarters -- are all listed as questionable for Sunday. None of the three practiced Thursday and each may be forced to sit out Sunday's game.
* Chris Chandler is expected to start at QB again this week for the Bears. The last time Chandler played at the Metrodome, he led the Falcons to a come-from-behind win in the 1998 NFC Championship Game that put Atlanta in the Super Bowl.
* In hopes of getting a better pass rush, the Vikings have decided to start Lance Johnstone and Chris Hovan at tackle and Lorenzo Bromell and Kenny Mixon at defensive end. The players are considered the four best pass rushers on the team, but have rarely been on the field at the same time.
* All of us at VU would like to extend our prayers and sympathies to the families of late Senator Paul Wellstone, his wife and daughter and the families of the three campaign staffers and two pilots that were aboard a plane that crashed and killed all eight aboard this morning in northern Minnesota. Regardless of anyone's political affliliation, Wellstone was respected by both sides of the aisle in the Senate for his convictions. Prayers are sent to all of the families and friends touched by this tragedy.

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