Childress: Culpepper wasn't a team player
"It just became a deal where I didn't feel like it was the team, I felt like it was 'me,'" Childress said Monday about Culpepper. "I went through a big 'me' situation last year with a guy who was all about 'me.'"
While still the offensive coordinator at Philadelphia, Childress clashed with Terrell Owens during training camp, the precursor to the mercurial receiver's high-profile exodus from the Eagles.
Shortly after replacing Mike Tice as the head coach in Minnesota, Childress again found himself not seeing eye-to-eye with one of the team's marquee players.
Culpepper refused to rehab his severely injured right knee in Minnesota, preferring to remain at home in Florida. He also asked for a raise and was hesitant to meet with Childress and the new coaching staff to start examining the team's new offense.
"I think we're just playing the ultimate team game and so everybody has to be on board," Childress said. "Specifically, the quarterback has to be on board because that's kind of the straw that stirs the drink, if you will. You have to feel that, it has to be ringing through. I didn't quite get it."
With neither side budging, the Vikings shipped Culpepper to Miami last week for a second-round pick, days after Culpepper requested to be traded or released.
"Quite frankly, I don't think he wanted to be here anymore," the coach said. "I think he's probably better served where he's at. I think that we'll go forward and keep our gaze forward as opposed to looking back."
Speaking at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Childress said he never got a good vibe from Culpepper, the unquestioned leader of the Vikings until last season's struggles on and off the field.
"Everything became about being a $10 million-a-year quarterback," Childress said.
Culpepper did not respond to an e-mail request for comment. Last week, he said he wanted to move forward with his new team.
"I wish the best for the Viking organization as they go forward under the new ownership group and coaching staff," he wrote in an e-mail to reporters last week.
Without Culpepper, the Vikings have turned to 37-year-old Brad Johnson as their starting quarterback. After Culpepper went down for the season against Carolina, Johnson helped the team to a 7-2 finish that was aided by an improved defense and soft schedule.
Childress said Monday he is off to a much better start with Johnson.
"I know where his heart is in no uncertain terms because he's told me that," Childress said. "He's looked me in the eye and told me that."
And Childress didn't rule out packaging the second-rounder the Vikings got from Miami to move up in the draft to grab one of the marquee rookies -- USC's Matt Leinart, Texas' Vince Young or Vanderbilt's Jay Cutler.
"If you have a little bit of ammo, if you see somebody that moves you, you'd be able to move up if that person was there," he said.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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