Culpepper gets starting nod for Raiders vs. San Diego

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- All the secrecy about which quarterback
would start for the Oakland Raiders was put to rest this week.

With Josh McCown still limping around in a walking boot and
Daunte Culpepper coming off a five-touchdown performance, coach
Lane Kiffin saw no reason to keep secret his decision about the
starting quarterback.

That's a big change from previous weeks. Kiffin refused to
divulge McCown would start the season opener against Detroit, then
listed McCown as doubtful the following week in Denver with a foot
injury but started him anyway.

Heading into the next week against Cleveland, the questions were
about how long McCown would keep the job after struggling the
previous week against the Broncos. Culpepper finished the game
against the Browns after McCown left at halftime with a broken toe,
but Kiffin waited until the Friday before the Miami game before
declaring Culpepper the starter.

He announced that Culpepper would start this week's game for
Oakland (2-2) against the San Diego Chargers before the first
question of the week was even asked.

"I won't prepare any differently," Culpepper said. "I prepare
the same no matter what. It's no different to me."

Culpepper wasn't asked to do much in his first start, going
5-for-12 for 75 yards, but he threw for two touchdowns and ran for
three more, showing that his surgically repaired knee is feeling
much better after hindering him so much the past two seasons.

In his last full season for Minnesota in 2004, Culpepper
averaged more than 34 attempts a game. Now he said he's content to
hand the ball off, if Oakland's top-ranked running game continues
to have so much success.

"I expect to do whatever it takes to get a win," he said.
"Whatever it takes to get a win. I'm pretty sure if you talk to
every other guy in this locker room they'd say the same thing. It
doesn't matter."

Culpepper's two TD throws went to Jerry Porter, who has had four
of his seven catches after Culpepper took over the quarterbacking

"He's coming along," Porter said. "Naturally, the two guys
have been there months before and had a bit of a leg up on him. ...
He can play. He's getting a chance to get out there."

How long that chance will last is still up in the air. Kiffin
has not said what he plans to do once McCown gets healthy. McCown
played through a sprained right foot and cracked bone in his
finger, but will miss his second straight game with the broken left

"Every week it looks like he might be coming back and then he
struggles," Kiffin said. "We're just going to take it day to

There still are questions at running back, where LaMont Jordan
has not practiced since leaving the Miami game with a sore back
late in the first half. Justin Fargas ran for 172 of his
career-high 179 yards in the second half against the Dolphins.

Also, Dominic Rhodes is back from his four-game suspension for
violating the league's substance-abuse policy.

Pro Bowl defensive end Derrick Burgess is back practicing after
missing two games with a sore calf and special teams standout
Isaiah Ekejiuba is back for the first time since injuring his foot
in the final exhibition game in Seattle.

When the Raiders take the field Sunday in San Diego, they will
be in an unusual place. For the first time since winning the AFC
West in 2002 on the way to the Super Bowl, Oakland is alone in
first in the division.

The Raiders got there while watching the rest of the league play
Sunday. They are 2-2, a half-game ahead of the other three
divisional teams.

"If we're in first place at the end of this thing, then it's
good. Right now it's not," Porter said. "When you start reading
the papers, next thing you know, somebody is going to pass you up.
It's fine to be percentage points ahead of somebody, but all of us
have two wins. It's early in the year."