Daunte undergoes MRIfor back today
QB's back injury makes status uncertain
By Sean Jensen
Knight Ridder Newspapers
DETROIT--Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper prides himself on his high threshold for pain.
Two years ago, Culpepper tried to play through a posterior cruciate ligament strain in his left knee, but coaches decided to bench him after his start against the Pittsburgh Steelers clearly showed he was not himself.
So Sunday, when Culpepper said he couldn't return to the game after taking an unnecessary hit to his lower back on a 2-yard touchdown run, his teammates and coaches were worried about his status. Culpepper, who was replaced by Gus Frerotte, said he couldn't lift his left leg after the play, and he walked gingerly to the locker room with less than a minute left in the first half. He later described the pain as "very sharp."
An X-ray at halftime was negative, and he was expected to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam upon his return to the Twin Cities on Sunday night.
Culpepper said he wanted to return to the game so badly in the second half that "I had tears in my eyes."
Asked if he will play next Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, Culpepper said, "Absolutely. That's my thoughts on it now. But we're going to be prepared for whatever. If I can't go, then Gus will be ready, and I'll be right there to help him."
Frerotte did fine when he entered the game with under a minute left in the second quarter. But the Vikings are anxious about Culpepper's status. The best-case scenario for the Vikings is a bruised lower back. The MRI was taken to check for tissue damage or a possible transverse process, a projection on either side of the vertebra.
Even that injury, however, isn't considered serious long-term, although it is painful, similar to a broken rib.
Culpepper had a visible limp after the game. For his postgame interview, he gingerly got on and off a two-foot platform. He believed it was all uncalled for.
Culpepper jumped into the end zone for the touchdown, landing three yards in. As he landed, Lions linebacker Wali Rainer drilled him in the lower left side of his back, near his vertebra. Culpepper said Rainer hit him with either his elbow or knee.
"I guess it's a part of the game," Culpepper said, "but I thought he could have pulled up. I thought I was already in the end zone."
It was Culpepper's second rushing touchdown Sunday. His first touchdown--the 23rd of his career--was on a draw from 14 yards out, and it moved him past Fran Tarkenton into first in team history. Culpepper also completed 7 of 13 passes for 105 yards.
When he left, the Vikings had taken a 13-10 lead. After a stand by the Vikings' defense, Frerotte led the team onto the field with 43 seconds remaining the half. On his second play, he found a wide-open Moss for a 72-yard gain.