Sunday Morning Massacre

News and opinions to start your Vikings-Packers Sunday dripping with information, with notes and quotes on Daunte Culpepper, Corey Chavous, Michael Bennett, Chris Hovan, Jim Kleinsasser and Mike Tice's decisions.

Daunte Culpepper's college coach, Mike Kruczek, first told his former star that he didn't think Minnesota was the best place for him while attending the wedding of the Vikings quarterback last summer.

The Central Florida coach still believes that is the case. "I said, ‘Daunte, I think your destiny is with some other football team,'" Kruczek told the Orlando Sentinel. "I think things would pan out better somewhere else. Daunte just said, ‘Coach, it will be fine.' I don't see it. That's my gut feeling."

Kruczek refused to get into specifics of why he believes Culpepper would be best served playing for another team.

Kruczek, a former quarterback with the Pittsburgh Steelers, also addressed the fact that Culpepper heard the displeasure of the Metrodome fans during the Giants loss.

"I don't know what effect 64,000 people booing him had, but it's never occurred in his career," Kruczek said. "He has never been sat down. It all depends on how he handles that adversity. You can't let it bother you. That's when you get self doubt and can't make plays."

Chavous ‘cool' with safety move
Corey Chavous will move from left cornerback to strong safety for the Vikings' game against the Packers. That allows Brian Williams to claim Chavous' old spot in the starting lineup.

"Hopefully this will allow us to get better at two positions with one move," Tice said.

One reason Chavous was thought to have picked the Vikings when he was shopping his services during the offseason was because of their willingness to let him stay at corner and not move him to safety.

Chavous, however, did not sound too disappointed.

"I'm cool with it," he said. "I love playing cornerback. But basically at this point, we have to do what we need to do to try to win a football game. So, I'm more excited about it. When I look at my season thus far at corner and how I've done, I've done some good things out there. But I'm not completely where I wanted to end that off in terms of my productivity. I wanted to get a few more interceptions. But I'll get some from the back end."

It is not as if Chavous is being asked to learn a completely new position. He was drafted as a strong safety by the Arizona Cardinals in 1998.

"I played that position for most of the year and then I beat out their first-rounder that they had at corner and ended up starting the last five games of my rookie year and the last two games of the playoffs," he said. "That's how I got back to corner. I had played cornerback exclusively in college, but I played safety actually quite a bit in the league. … I just haven't done it in a long time. It's a different scheme and different system. I will have to rely on (defensive coordinator Willie) Shaw, (defensive backs coach Chuck) Knox and the rest of the coaches."

Veteran free safety Ronnie Bradford thinks Chavous will make a smooth transition to the strong safety spot.

"I'm sure he's going to feel pretty comfortable," Bradford said. "He is one of the bigger defensive backs we have (6-1, 206 pounds) and he is physical. … I don't think it's too big of a deal. It's more of the mental aspect, but he's a smart player."

Chavous might be on the move again before long, eventually winding up at free safety. However, the coaching staff did not want to make that move now because they are pleased with Bradford's play.

Bright lights
The Vikings have lost a handful more games than they have won, but there are a few bright spots in what quickly has become a dark and dreary season.

"We are feeling good about some of the things we have done well," Tice said. "We have some players that are playing at a high level of confidence. One of those is obviously Michael Bennett or Jimmy Kleinsasser. These are two young players right now that are playing at a very, very high level. The problem is that gets lost when you lose. When you lose you don't notice those things, but we certainly do when we look at the tapes. Both of those players are playing very, very well."

After missing the third and fourth weeks because of injuries, Kleinsasser has become not only one of the team's better run blockers but a dependable receiver as well. Against Detroit, in his first week back from injury, Kleinsasser had a season-high four catches. Against Tampa Bay, he had three catches for 64 yards. Kleinsasser has proven to be more than a solid blocker and is a good complement to Byron Chamberlain, who is the team's best pass-catching tight end.

Bennett is evolving on a weekly basis. Against Tampa Bay earlier this month, Bennett set the Vikings record for longest run with an 85-yard highlight run where he was barely touched. Bennett's speed was on display again a week later, when he scampered for a 78-yard run on a similar play. Both plays were reminiscent of former Vikings running back (and college sprinter) Robert Smith.

"That is a positive note of the offense," offensive lineman Chris Liwienski said. "Michael's had a number of 100-yard games and he's on the way to breaking the 1,000-yard barrier, so we're happy with that."

Stellar in the trenches
In addition to Kleinsasser's and Bennett's contributions on offense, Hovan has been a consistent beacon on defense. He enters the Green Bay game with just 2-1/2 sacks, but he had notched an impressive 23 quarterback hurries.

"He's been one of our great stories this year," Tice said. "He is a passionate player, a passionate guy. He attacks everything he does with great, great fervor. He's the kind of guy you can build your defense around."

Hovan, in just his third NFL season, credits defensive line coach George O'Leary, who joined the Vikings when Tice was named head coach.

"A lot of it has to be attributed to Coach O'Leary," Hovan said. "He's helped me see the bigger picture in a game this year — knowing when to play fast, knowing when to play slow and knowing when to play under control. I thank him for a lot of that because he's really helped me this year."

Hovan admits the statistics are far from pretty, but he feels like the defensive line is pressuring the quarterback. "The (lack of) sacks is what sucks, man," Hovan said. "We're getting to (the quarterback) but we'd like to get our sack totals up. We've had opportunities but we've missed, so that's what we work on each week."

Hovan also is considered the locker room leader of the defense. Obviously it doesn't convert into checks in the win column, but the unity on the team more than satisfies Hovan, considering the team's recent history of turbulence in the locker room.

"We have a great locker room," Hovan said. "Guys get along and really care about each other around here. We're really a family and we've been through some tough times. But if we're going to get through, we're going to get through together."

Decisions, decisions
Admittedly, benching Culpepper in favor of Todd Bouman during the second half of the game Nov. 10 against the New York Giants ranked among the most difficult moves Tice has had to make.

"Releasing Gary Anderson was the toughest," Tice said. "That was really tough because he's a class guy and a great player. But to take Daunte out of the game, that was a hard decision to make."

End quote
Today's game against the Green Bay Packers gave Tice ample reason to dig into the proverbial bag full of cliches: "This is traditionally a game where you throw out all the records," Tice said. "And we are very willing to throw out our record at this point."

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