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Vikings trade QB Culpepper to Dolphins

MINNEAPOLIS (March 14, 2006) -- The Minnesota Vikings traded Daunte Culpepper to the Miami Dolphins on Tuesday, granting the disgruntled quarterback's wish to leave the team after a subpar season that ended with a serious knee injury.

Vikings spokesman Tom West confirmed the deal, but did not give specifics. Several media reports say Minnesota received a second-round pick in return.

The deal gives Culpepper the out he wanted from Minnesota, where he made the Pro Bowl three times in seven seasons. But his relationship with the organization had deteriorated swiftly in recent weeks, when Culpepper said he felt unwanted.

The Dolphins declined to confirm the deal.

"Anything we do is contingent on a player passing a medical exam," said spokesman Harvey Greene, who declined further comment.

Culpepper is coming off a subpar season that ended Oct. 30, when he tore three ligaments in his knee during a game against Carolina. In seven games, he threw six touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

A deal had been in the works since the middle of last week, when Culpepper requested to be traded or released from his contract. Culpepper said then that he was upset by the tone of an e-mail sent to him from the Vikings' front office, but would not give details.

He said he appreciated that the team's new owner, Zygi Wilf, was willing to pay him a $6 million bonus due later this month.

"However, because of the fundamental differences I have with management regarding the approach to my personal and professional life, I think it is the best business decision for both parties to go our separate ways," Culpepper said then.

The Vikings moved swiftly to accommodate Culpepper, speaking to the Dolphins and Raiders, among other teams.

The trade marks the end of an era for the Vikings, who rose to unprecedented popularity in Minnesota thanks in large part to Culpepper throwing long passes to Randy Moss.

The Vikings shipped Moss to the Raiders before last season, and now have completed the house-cleaning by sending Culpepper to Miami, which made getting a quarterback one of the team's highest priorities heading into free agency.

The Dolphins also spoke to free agent Drew Brees, but didn't want to pay the high price he was asking after shoulder surgery. Shortly after the Culpepper deal was announced, the New Orleans Saints said they agreed to a six-year contract with Brees.

Culpepper has his own injury concerns coming off the horrific knee injury against the Panthers. Even before the injury, Culpepper had fallen out of favor with fans in Minnesota during the Vikings' 2-5 start.

Veteran Brad Johnson took over when Culpepper went down, helping the Vikings to a 7-2 finish.

The Vikings were under pressure to deal Culpepper before the end of the month, or they would have been forced to pay an unhappy and injured player the $6 million bonus that was negotiated after the 2004 season.

Wilf said he was prepared to the pay the bonus, but with Culpepper's relationship with new coach Brad Childress getting off on a sour note, the team relented to Culpepper's trade demands.

The relationship was strained partly because Culpepper refused the Vikings' request that he rehab in the Twin Cities and get a jump on learning Childress' version of the West Coast offense.

That, and the uncertainty that he would be back in time for the opening of next season, was enough for the Vikings.

Provided Culpepper passes the Dolphins' exam, it will bring to a close an up-and-down seven years as the Vikings' starting quarterback.

He burst onto the scene in 2000 in his first year as a starter, throwing for nearly 4,000 yards and 33 touchdowns to help lead the Vikings to the NFC Championship game. But that season was washed away with an embarrassing 41-0 loss to the Giants in the Meadowlands.

Culpepper had his finest season in 2004, completing nearly 70 percent of his passes with 39 touchdowns and a 110.9 rating. Only Peyton Manning's record-setting season kept Culpepper from the MVP award.

It all came crashing down last season, first with Culpepper's considerable struggles on the field and the infamous Lake Minnetonka boat party scandal off it. Culpepper and three other teammates were charged with several misdemeanors for alleged lewd conduct on the boat, and Culpepper has proclaimed his innocence and vowed to fight them in court.

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