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'I will be vindicated'

Culpepper disputes party boat charges; four Vikings cited

Knight Ridder Newspapers

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. --Minnesota Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper, mum since suffering a season-ending knee injury, broke his silence Thursday to dispute charges against him stemming from the Oct. 6 boat party on Lake Minnetonka.

He also discussed several perceptions about his absence from the team that have been bothering him.

Culpepper and three teammates were charged with indecent, lewd and disorderly conduct for participating in a bawdy boat party that drew national attention.

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The Vikings quarterback, currently on injured reserve, Bryant McKinnie, Fred Smoot and Moe Williams each were charged with three misdemeanors for their behavior, according to court papers.

Culpepper said by phone from Orlando, Fla., that he has been falsely charged with indecent conduct, disorderly conduct and lewd or lascivious conduct and that he will "vigorously" defend his name.

"I look forward to meeting my accusers an a court of law, so they can be confronted with this lie," Culpepper said. "In the end, the truth will come out and I will be vindicated. . . .

"If I did anything wrong, it was going to that stupid boat."

Time away

Culpepper, who tore three ligaments in his right knee against the Carolina Panthers on Oct. 30, explained why he hasn't been around his teammates much since suffering the injury.

On doctor's advice, he said, he returned to his home in Florida to begin rehabilitation on his knee.

"Dr. (James) Andrews recommended a therapist in Orlando, and I've got a one-level house here, so I don't have three different flights (of stairs)," Culpepper said. "There's also no ice on the ground, because if you slip, I'll be right back in surgery. It's better for my knee to be here."

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Some have questioned whether Culpepper will be able to start training camp in August with the mobility he had before the injury. Not to worry, he said.

"I definitely will," he said. "My doctor fixed my leg aggressively, and did what he could so I could play the way I like to play. Those were his exact words. That's all I needed to hear."

A new start

The Vikings have run off six consecutive victories since Brad Johnson stepped in at quarterback. That has prompted some to speculate that Culpepper is staying away out of jealousy.

"I'm the biggest cheerleader," Culpepper said. "That's all I can do is hope for the best for my team. Anyone who says otherwise doesn't know me. My goals haven't changed for what I want the team to do. I'm never against us. I'm always with the Vikings.

"I'm very, very excited for the way Brad is playing. He's doing what he's supposed to do. Everyone is stepping their game up."

Another theory was that Culpepper had sunk into depression. He refuted that as well.

"I come home to a beautiful family every day," he said. "As long as I'm breathing, I've got no reason to be depressed."

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Some were surprised Culpepper, as the team's marquee player and leader, hasn't attended more games or been more of a presence at Winter Park.

"Physically, I couldn't stand up and walk," he said. "My doctor didn't want me flying a lot (initially). The guys know my heart."

Daunte's future

Culpepper said he expects to remain with the Vikings over the long term. He said there is still much he hopes to accomplish.

"I expect to end my career in Minnesota and win Super Bowls for the Vikings," he said. "Those are my expectations."

Team owner Zygi Wilf has been supportive during this difficult time, Culpepper said.

"I appreciate everything he's done," he said. "It just shows how classy he is. I'm very excited to work with the ownership. They've shown me nothing but love."

Culpepper said he had never endured such excruciating pain. But he wondered whether he was fortunate the injury occurred.

"My knee was already injured. I had lost 10 pounds, trying to take weight off my knee, so I could play like I could play," he said. "It was a tough break for me. But anything bad that happens could be a blessing in disguise."

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