|Culpepper comes back: Oakland's latest QB returns to Minnesota|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 15 November 2007 15:40|
This week, they'll each try to use the other to begin the long climb back to where they were.
``It's just a great opportunity. I'm glad to have the opportunity I have to be on this club. I'm ready to take advantage of it,'' said Culpepper, who will start at quarterback for Oakland on Sunday. This will be his first appearance at the Metrodome since the uproarious 2005 season, his last in Minnesota.
There had been bad games and many turnovers mixed with the strong performances, and Randy Moss usually was there to catch his passes, but Culpepper was in the prime of his promising career after setting several Vikings records in 2004. He threw for 39 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions that year, played in his third Pro Bowl and was a part of Minnesota's only playoff victory since the 2000 season.
Culpepper hasn't been the same since, though.
After a rough start in 2005, he was sidelined with a devastating knee injury that led to his eventual divorce with the Vikings.
New coach Brad Childress didn't like the way he was handling his rehabilitation or his wishes for a restructured contract, so Culpepper was soon traded to Miami for a second-round draft pick. Last year was a loss with the Dolphins, when he came back too soon from three torn ligaments in his right knee.
Now he's with the Raiders, about to get his fifth start of the season and showing signs of progress. He has thrown for 817 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions, as well as rushed for three scores.
``Everybody was praying for him that he would be good after the surgery,'' said Minnesota's Pat Williams. ``Everything worked out, so I'm kind of happy for him.''
Asked this week if he's a better player now than he was at the time of the injury, Culpepper said he ``honestly'' and ``truly'' believes he is.
``I've seen a lot and done a lot,'' Culpepper said. ``It was a necessity for me to go through what I've been through the past couple years for me to be where I'm at right now. I'm just looking forward. I'm glad I got the opportunity to go out and showcase myself and do what I love to do and help this team win.''
The Vikings got a starting right tackle, Ryan Cook, with the draft pick obtained for Culpepper, but his departure has left a huge hole at the position that Childress and the front office have failed to fill.
The Raiders (2-7) rank 30th in the NFL in yards passing, but Minnesota is 31st. Only the San Francisco 49ers are worse in that category. Tarvaris Jackson's development as the supposed quarterback of this franchise's future has been hindered by three different injuries this season, but his first year as a starter has been a disaster.
Jackson will return this week after missing the last 1 1/2 games with the effects of a concussion. He displayed a confidence similar to Culpepper's when asked if he can help produce a win for a team that is starving for just that.
``There is no doubt I can. Just by me staying healthy, all this will come together,'' said Jackson, who has completed only 46.4 percent of his passes for 600 yards, two touchdowns and five interceptions.
The Vikings (3-6) lost to the rival Green Bay Packers 34-0 last Sunday, and in the process lost star running back Adrian Peterson to a knee injury for at least one week.
``I am only going to play as good as the other guys around me,'' Jackson said. ``Quarterbacks, we take all the blame on a lot of the things, but at the same time we need ... all 10 guys around you playing well, too. All the rest of the guys are playing pretty well, and it's just time for me to step up.''
In fairness to Jackson and the other quarterbacks who have struggled this season, another unfilled hole in Minnesota is at wide receiver. Moss, playing like an All-Pro again for New England this year, was traded to Oakland before that fateful 2005 season.
Mark that down as another deal bad for both parties.
The Vikings used the first-round draft pick from that trade to take wide receiver Troy Williamson, an unquestioned disappointment. The Raiders, 8-33 since the deal, had two years of injuries, complaints, and ineffectiveness from Moss before trading him to the Patriots for a measly fourth-round draft pick.
That was the first monumental event of Oakland coach Lane Kiffin's career. His first season has been expectedly difficult, but at age 32 he has time to grow into the job.
Kiffin's desire to be an NFL coach sprouted in Minnesota, where he grew up while his father, Monte, was an assistant with the Vikings in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Kiffin would listen in on meetings and soak up the locker-room atmosphere as a training camp ball boy and begin to shape his philosophy that he's using now.
``You listen to the players and you listen to how they respond to certain styles of coaching and what motivated them,'' Kiffin said. ``All of that stuff I think together just really, really helped me a lot.''