Culpepper says he's focusing on rehab, nothing else

Updated: February 16, 2006, 5:14 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Daunte Culpepper wanted to make sure there was no misinterpretation: He's concerned with getting healthy, not speculation about his future with the Minnesota Vikings.

And Culpepper, unless he's told otherwise by owner Zygi Wilf, plans to play quarterback for the Vikings this fall.

Quarterback
Minnesota Vikings

Profile
2005 SEASON STATISTICS
Att Comp Yds TD Int Rat
216 139 1395 6 12 72.0

He didn't respond specifically on Thursday to a report that the team is considering trading him because of his recent requests for more money. But Culpepper offered his take on the rumors that have surrounded him since the season ended.

"I have found over the years that people with knowledge of the situation are usually the most ignorant, and anonymous sources are usually synonymous with cowards who don't want to go on the record," Culpepper said in an e-mail to ESPN and The Associated Press. "My position has been and continues to be that I am focusing on rehabilitating my knee so that I can come back and play the game I love at the highest level.

"Until I hear different from Mr. Wilf or the new 'triangle of authority' at the Vikings, I plan on playing quarterback for Minnesota. Trying to delve into speculation, innuendo, rumor or anything else of this nature would be a waste of energy. I choose at this time to spend my energy on getting healthy. Thank you for relaying this message to the public."

The Star Tribune of Minneapolis, citing an anonymous person with knowledge of the situation, reported Thursday that the team is gauging Culpepper's trade value in response to his contract demands. The newspaper, citing three anonymous sources with knowledge of the situation, also reported that Culpepper tried three times in a six-week period ending Jan. 31 to upgrade his deal.

Culpepper let his longtime agent, Mason Ashe, go last month. He has been representing himself since then, saying he wanted to be more involved in his financial business.

The Vikings, coincidentally, introduced their new vice president of player personnel, Fran Foley, at a news conference at their headquarters. But Foley wouldn't address this subject, or much of anything else, and owner Zygi Wilf did not take questions.

"My position will be that we're not going to talk about our football business in public," Foley said. "It's just not going to happen. It's not the way that I do business, and it won't be the way that we'll do business from this point forward."

Foley, who spent the last three seasons with San Diego and the nine years before that with Jacksonville as a personnel official, was asked twice more for general comments on Culpepper. He declined.

"Whether it's Daunte or another player," Foley said, "I can't give you an evaluation on him as a performer -- or our plans with the player."

Culpepper, who was picked for his third Pro Bowl following a record-setting year in 2004, struggled badly through the first part of the 2005 season before tearing the anterior cruciate, medial collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments in his knee during a game against Carolina last Oct. 30.

He had surgery on Nov. 15 and has since spent most of his time rehabilitating in Florida. He spoke last month by phone with new coach Brad Childress, who said at his introductory news conference that the 29-year-old Culpepper "right now, is the franchise quarterback."

But that doesn't mean he will continue to be, despite Wilf's previous pledge to pay Culpepper a $6 million bonus he's due in March.

Though he has maintained his innocence, Culpepper's image was tainted after a wild boat party produced three misdemeanor charges for him and three teammates. The Vikings also must judge his on-field value, considering veteran quarterback Brad Johnson's success in relief and the uncertainty of Culpepper's health following such a catastrophic injury.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.