View Full Version : Tice-toughened Vikings could be without Culpepper this week

09-24-2003, 09:32 PM
Tice-toughened Vikings could be without Culpepper this week

By DAVE CAMPBELL, AP Sports Writer
September 22, 2003

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -- Three small bones on the left side of Daunte Culpepper's spine are broken. Another is cracked.

The injury has left Minnesota's star quarterback listed as doubtful for Sunday's game against San Francisco, giving the Vikings plenty of uncertainty to go along with their 3-0 start.

Culpepper was hurt late in the second quarter of the Vikings' 23-13 victory over Detroit when Lions linebacker Wali Rainer hit him in the end zone on Culpepper's second rushing touchdown of the game.

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Culpepper, who questioned the necessity of Rainer's hit, was in too much pain to return and watched the second half from the sideline. The 6-foot-4, 264-pounder, however, considers himself a fast healer and expects to play Sunday. The small bones he injured are each called a transverse process.

``I'm all right, man,'' he said Monday. ``It's just a little sore.''

Culpepper won't practice until Friday at the earliest.

``If he can take any work Friday and we feel comfortable with him, we'll go with it,'' coach Mike Tice said. ``If not, then we'll rest him.''

Culpepper walked without much of a limp Monday, and he proudly showed reporters how he could lift his left leg up toward his chest -- something that was too painful to do Sunday.

``It's a very painful injury, but it's certainly one you can play with,'' Tice said.

Gus Frerotte -- a veteran of five teams and 10 seasons who signed with Minnesota in March -- will work with the first-team offense in the meantime. Frerotte was 8-for-19 for 184 yards, a touchdown and an interception in relief on Sunday.

``We'll see how he comes out of it,'' said Frerotte, who began last season as Cincinnati's starter. ``Either way, I'll be ready to go.''

Minnesota's other superstar, wide receiver Randy Moss, is having trouble with back spasms. Moss aggravated the injury in the first week against Green Bay, and he played through pain Sunday -- managing 85 yards on three receptions.

Moss won't practice, either, until Friday -- if at all.

``Oh, he'll play,'' Tice said. ``Are you kidding me? I'm not going to be without two of my best players. I might already be without one of them.''

The Vikings have played drastically better this September than last, when they dropped their first four games and wound up 6-10 in Tice's first year.

A tough-talking, 6-foot-8 native of New York who played 14 NFL seasons as a tight end, Tice made it a priority in training camp to make the Vikings more aggressive -- believing that a fast start would build confidence in his young team.

After a 30-25 win over Green Bay, Tice subjected his players to grueling practices to avoid a letdown against lowly Chicago. Last week brought more of the same in preparation for Detroit.

With the rest of their division rivals struggling, the Vikings can already boast a two-game lead in the NFC North.

``I think we are a tough football team,'' Tice said. ``I'd be anxious to see other teams' injury reports after we play them. I would have to guess they're pretty extensive, not that we're going out to hurt anybody. We never want to do that, but I think we are a physical football team.''

The Vikings still have a long way to go -- even with an improved defense and an offensive line that's one of the league's best. Their remaining schedule includes the 49ers, Denver, New York Giants, Oakland, St. Louis, Seattle and Kansas City.

Of course, most people didn't expect to see the Vikings among the undefeated after three weeks.

``You set your sights and your goals high,'' free safety Brian Russell said.link (http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news?slug=ap-vikings-culpepper&prov=ap&type=lgns)