MINNEAPOLIS -- Daunte Culpepper doesn't think of his smashing performance Sunday as his NFL starting debut.
The Minnesota Vikings' new versatile quarterback took just six meaningless snaps playing behind Randall Cunningham and Jeff George as a rookie last year.
But Culpepper, the 11th pick in the 1999 draft, did more than just hold a clipboard. He played out every snap in his mind, imagining what he would have done if he were on the field for real.
"Every play," Culpepper said. "I was in every play every game last year."
Aug. 5 New Orleans L, 25-24
Aug. 12 at San Diego L, 31-7
Aug. 18 Arizona W, 35-17
Aug. 24 at Indianapolis L, 32-30
Sept. 3 Chicago W, 30-27
Sept. 10 Miami, noon
Sept. 17 at New England, 3:15
Sept. 24 Open
Oct. 1 at Detroit, noon
Oct. 9 Tampa Bay, 8 p.m.
Oct. 15 at Chicago, 7:20 p.m.
Oct. 22 Buffalo, noon
Oct. 29 at Tampa Bay, noon
Nov. 6 at Green Bay, 8 p.m.
Nov. 12 Arizona, noon
Nov. 19 Carolina, noon
Nov. 23 at Dallas, 3:05 p.m.
Nov. 30 Detroit, 7:20 p.m.
Dec. 10 at St. Louis, noon
Dec. 17 Green Bay, noon
Dec. 24 at Indianapolis, 3:15
So, that's why he didn't have butterflies Sunday, when he scored three times in the Vikings' 30-27 victory over Chicago, he said.
The Vikings spent training camp trying to figure out who would replace Leroy Hoard as their goal-line rusher. Robert Smith, Jim Kleinsasser and Moe Williams got their shot and nobody thought much about their second-year quarterback who passed for more than 11,000 yards at Central Florida.
But Culpepper changed the Vikings' thinking Sunday.
Believed to be the biggest quarterback in NFL history at 6-foot-4, 255 pounds, Culpepper became the first QB in the club's 40-year history to run for three touchdowns in a game.
"When I run, I don't like to get hit," Culpepper said. "But physically, I can withstand it."
Culpepper exploited the Bears' deep zone coverage but rather than force passes to Randy Moss and Cris Carter, who were double-covered most of the day, Culpepper tucked the ball and ran.
And ran and ran.
Culpepper, who threw for 190 yards, rushed for 73 yards -- third-most for a quarterback in the team's history.
The Vikings trailed by 11 in the third quarter when Culpepper capped consecutive drives of 72, 93 and 81 yards with touchdown runs.
He scored on a sneak, a draw and a rollout.
"I don't know if I think of myself as a bruising guy. But part of my job description is to get the ball in the end zone and I will run if I need to," said Culpepper, who sported several bandages covering turf burns on both arms Monday.
Don't worry, coach Dennis Green said Monday, he hasn't changed his air-it-out attack.
"Daunte is not interested in running," Green insisted. "He runs to get first downs if we don't have any other options. He's primarily a passer."
Except near the goal line.
But Culpepper said he's not going to hog the ball inside the 5.
Culpepper said he also can't wait to get the ball into the hands of Moss and Carter, the fourth-best receiving tandem in NFL history last season.
"That's what's going to make us so deadly is we're going to be able to attack defenses in different kinds of ways."
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