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Thursday, October 2, 2003
Culpepper misses practice again, named Offensive Player of the Month


EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Daunte Culpepper missed his second straight practice Thursday, increasing the probability that Gus Frerotte will start this weekend when undefeated Minnesota visits Atlanta.

The Vikings (4-0) have a bye next weekend, which would give their star quarterback more time to heal after breaking three small bones -- another one was partially fractured -- in his lower back Sept. 21 against Detroit.

Coach Mike Tice had said that Frerotte would start against the Falcons (1-3) on Sunday if Culpepper, who remained listed as questionable, couldn't go through a full practice Thursday.

Frerotte threw four touchdown passes in a victory last week over San Francisco that resulted in a near-perfect 157.2 quarterback rating.

Frerotte (128.2) and Culpepper (108.0) are the top two rated passers in the NFC.

Trainer Chuck Barta said Culpepper would probably participate in Friday's practice so that he wouldn't get too rusty.

In other news Thursday, Culpepper was named the NFC's Offensive Player of the Month for completing 42 of 69 passes for 514 yards, five touchdown passes and no interceptions. He also rushed for 83 yards and two TDs on 18 carries.

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INJURIES:@ Randy Moss went through most of Thursday's practice but Tice pulled him out after his back became sore and sent him inside for treatment.

Moss has been bothered by back spasms since the start of the season and is listed as probable on the injury report. Tice has said Moss will play against the Falcons.

"He didn't get any worse," Tice said. "It's just that I'm being smart."

In other injury news, Chris Claiborne was added to the report after hurting his heel in Wednesday's practice, although the injury doesn't appear serious.

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OFFENSIVE ADJUSTMENTS:@ The Falcons will give the Vikings their first look at the 3-4 defense this year. The system worked well for Atlanta last season, when only seven teams gave up fewer points than Atlanta's 19.6 per game.

"The 3-4 always presents some problems, but that's what the week of preparation is for," center Matt Birk said. "Guys have to do things they're not used to, but that's why we have a week of practice."

Tice said preparing for the 3-4 has kept the coaches up late.

"It creates protection problems and running game problems; there's too much thinking that goes on," he said.

The main problem is that few teams in the NFL use the defense, so most teams aren't used to defending it.

"Basically it's just playing football once you know who to get," tackle Mike Rosenthal said.

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EXTRA POINTS:@ The Vikings had been scheduled to practice Friday at the University of Minnesota to prepare for playing on a synthetic grass surface. But because of scheduling problems, the team changed its plans and will practice at Winter Park. ... New Minnesota Timberwolves guard Sam Cassell stopped by practice and chatted some with Michael Bennett before heading out to the Wolves' media day in Minneapolis.