Culpepper's slow (crash and) burn

Daunte Culpepper is fed up with waiting for a phone call, so he announced his retirement on Thursday. In reality, he seems to have been on this track for a couple of years.

Amidst the hoopla of the 2008 season beginning, it came as something of a surprise when Daunte Culpepper made the announcement that he was retiring from the NFL. Unable to find a job and apparently unwilling to come into a training camp as a backup QB, Culpepper announced Thursday that he will retire.

The Culpepper saga has been ridden and written with many twists and turns. A first-round pick in 1999, Culpepper was able to learn behind veterans Randall Cunningham and Jeff George as a rookie before taking over in 2000. In his first season at QB, Culpepper led the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game and, for the next five years, was the Vikings' starting quarterback.

Things began to go south for Culpepper on Oct. 30, 2005. Already struggling that season, the Vikings called a running play designed to get Culpepper in the open field. The play was executed to perfection and Culpepper raced 20 yards on the QB draw before he took a direct shot to his right knee that tore all of the major ligaments. From that point on, his career took a severe downward spiral.

Unwilling to rehab in Minnesota or deal directly with new head coach Brad Childress, the Vikings traded Culpepper to the Dolphins for a second-round pick, which they used on OT Ryan Cook. Culpepper rushed back from the knee surgery to start the opener in 2006, but it was clear that his knee wasn't 100 percent and that he had lost considerable mobility due to the injury. He last only a few weeks as the starter and, by the end of the year, he was released. He spent the 2007 season with Oakland and never reclaimed the magic he had early in his career.

Along the way, Culpepper decided to become his own agent, which many believe proved to be a tragic flaw on his part. He was offered a one-year, $1 million contract to back up Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay and turned it down. He then competed with Byron Leftwich for the backup job in Pittsburgh and lost out. The final straw may have come when Baltimore signed Culpepper understudy Todd Bouman and didn't even call Pepp for a tryout.

Culpepper had a promising career in front of him and, if not for personal hard feelings against the Vikings organization, would likely still be Minnesota's quarterback. Instead, he's officially retired, but probably still waiting for his phone to ring if a starting QB goes down. It's a sad end to a productive career in which some scouts viewed QBs of his size to be the wave of the future.

FRIDAY NOTES

  • The Vikings named E.J. Henderson, Steve Hutchinson and Ryan Longwell team captains by a vote Thursday. Last year, the NFL instituted the team captain plan, putting a "C" on the jerseys of those selected. The Vikings opted to name captains on a week-to-week basis last year.

  • Tarvaris Jackson is expected to play Monday, but has been practicing with his right knee braced. Expect to see him wearing the brace Monday against Green Bay.

  • Maurice Hicks didn't practice Thursday or Friday with a foot injury.

  • Former Vikings receiver Martin Nance worked out with the Steelers Thursday. Pittsburgh has five wide receivers on its roster and one on the practice squad.

  • The joke seems to be sticking. In all business-related items, the Cincinnati Bengals are now referring to wide receiver Chad Johnson as Chad Ocho Cinco. Johnson had his name legally changed last month.


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