Culpepper: Trade me, or terminate my contract
MINNEAPOLIS -- Daunte Culpepper's shaky relationship with the Minnesota Vikings deteriorated further on Wednesday when the quarterback said he has asked to be released if the team can't work out a trade.
"Two days ago I got an e-mail from management that confirmed for me that they did not see me as the player or person that I see myself," Culpepper told ESPN's Andrea Kremer. "I was shocked. It pushed me to this point [seeking a trade]. The e-mail made no mention of trying to trade me, but I confirmed from an outside source that they were attempting to trade me. While I have not yet told the Vikings, if they do not trade me, I intend to ask the Vikings to terminate my contract."
In an e-mail to reporters, Culpepper asked the Vikings if he could speak to interested teams on his own behalf -- and was denied.
Culpepper said he appreciated that the team's new owner, Zygi Wilf, was willing to pay him a $6 million bonus due later this month.
"However, because of the fundamental differences I have with management regarding the approach to my personal and professional life, I think it is the best business decision for both parties to go our separate ways," Culpepper said.
He softened his message slightly by saying that if the team didn't honor his request, "then I intend to fulfill my contractual obligations to the Minnesota Vikings."
In a brief phone interview with The Associated Press, Culpepper said he had been angered by a recent e-mail he received from the team. He didn't elaborate on the contents of the e-mail.
A Vikings spokesman said the team would not comment on the e-mail.
Culpepper's status with the team has been in question ever since a boat party scandal on Lake Minnetonka in September. He was charged with several misdemeanors for lewd conduct; Culpepper has said he is innocent and will fight the allegations in court.
Further complicating Culpepper's situation is his continued recovery from a devastating knee injury on Oct. 30 against Carolina. Culpepper missed most of last season after tearing three ligaments in his right knee, calling into question whether he will be ready for the start of the 2006 season.
Even before the injury, Culpepper was having one of his worst seasons as a pro.
He threw twice as many interceptions as he did touchdowns during the Vikings' 2-5 start. After he went down with the injury, backup Brad Johnson guided the Vikings to six straight wins, though that was due as much to an improved defense as it was Johnson's play.
Culpepper let his longtime agent, Mason Ashe, go in the offseason. He has been representing himself since then, saying he wanted to be more involved in his financial business, and has issued several statements to the media conveying his general unhappiness with the organization.
Culpepper signed a 10-year, $102 million contract in 2003, but much of that money was not guaranteed. He restructured his contract during training camp last season to give him nearly $8 million more in guaranteed money, but the quarterback has not been a steady presence with the team during its coaching change.
Wilf fired Mike Tice after the last game of the season and replaced him with Philadelphia offensive coordinator Brad Childress.
During his introductory press conference, Childress proclaimed Culpepper the starter, though he acknowledged at the NFL combine that the team had received inquiries about his availability.
Childress said then that he hoped to have both Culpepper and Johnson on the team this season.
"That's the mindset," Childress said at the combine in Indianapolis. "I don't know anything to the contrary."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.