Daunte Culpepper has made no secret of his desire to return to the NFL. The former Vikings quarterback told Jason La Canfora he’s “itching to get into an NFL training camp so I can practice again,” and said he is willing to conduct a “‘pro day’ for any NFL team that is interested in seeing what they will get with a healthy, motivated Daunte Culpepper.” At least one NFL team has now reportedly contacted Culpepper about setting up just such a work out. The San Francisco 49ers, tweets Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, are ready to take a look at Culpepper who last suited up in the NFL in 2009 with the Detroit Lions.
The Niners currently have rookie Colin Kaepernick and veteran Alex Smith at QB. Culpepper I assume would be brought in to compete for the back-up spot behind which ever of those quarterbacks ends up winning the starting job. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves: Culpepper first has to show Jim Harbaugh that he’s in good enough shape to even warrant a spot on the preseason roster. As we know, Daunte has occasionally let his weight get a little out of control. His comments to Jason La Canfora certainly suggest that he’s been hitting the gym, but with Daunte you never know.
I personally will be curious to know how Daunte does in his work out with the Niners (if it in fact ever happens). If he’s really in the kind of shape he says he is, and truly is motivated to make a full-blown NFL comeback and not just score a roster spot and pull a paycheck, then I think he has a more-than-realistic shot of landing a job in San Francisco. And if Daunte gets into a preseason game and starts flinging the ball around the way he used to with the Vikings? There could be a three-way competition for the starting job in Frisco instead of a two-way.
Not that I’m predicting Daunte will blow into Frisco and knock off both Kaepernick and Smith. Such a thing is possible, but not likely. And even if he did squeak out a starting job in San Fran, the chances of him ever becoming the Culpepper of old would be slim to none.
Culpepper may still have the talent to be an effective NFL player, and might even now be in good enough shape to handle the physical grind of the season, but I’m not convinced his head will ever be in the right place long enough for him to recapture the magic. He could get away with being inconsistent in the mental side of the game when he was young and so overwhelmingly gifted, but time has eroded his talents and injuries have taken their toll on his body, and at 34 he is now at that stage when quarterbacks can no longer rely on talent and must work their butts off in the film room if they want to stay at a high level. As Viking fans learned, Culpepper is not exactly a film room guy.
Maybe Daunte has changed over the years, and now takes his craft more seriously than he did in the old days, but he’ll have to prove it to me before I believe it. I certainly think he deserves one more shot at the playing in the NFL and I’m glad the Niners are apparently willing to take a chance on him. I’m just skeptical that Daunte’s latest comeback will be any better than his previous comebacks, when he was clearly little more than a shell of his former MVP-level self.