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Childress: Culpepper wasn't a team player

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress
says he saw a little of T.O. in Daunte Culpepper. That was enough
for him.

"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."

For now, Childress said, Johnson is the team's starting
quarterback. But the Vikings could bring in a veteran free agent
like Aaron Brooks, Brian Griese or Joey Harrington.

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.