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|Vikings coach Mike Tice (right) helps quarterback Daunte Culpepper off the field.|
"The quarterback doesn't appear to be in good shape," Tice said on Sunday. "I'm not a doctor, but the initial tests are not good. It doesn't appear that it's going to be anything that we as Vikings will want to hear.
"Things happen that are devastating. This certainly, if it's as serious as it appears, is devastating to our football team."
The loss of Culpepper is the latest in a string of emotionally-wrenching disappointments for the Vikings, including lopsided losses and allegations of lewd behavior by team members aboard a chartered lake cruise earlier this season.
Culpepper was seen crying in the locker room after Sunday's game, and when asked about his conversation with Culpepper, Tice looked down and mumbled, "He said, 'I love you,' and I said the same thing to him. I love him, too."
Culpepper ran for an 18-yard gain on the final play of the first quarter when he was hit by multiple defenders. Carolina cornerback Chris Gamble came in from the side and tackled Culpepper's leg and he immediately grabbed his knee.
Culpepper was helped off the field and taken to a cart for the ride into the locker room. The team initially said he sprained his knee.
He was on crutches with a heavy brace around his knee after the game and said he wouldn't know anything until after undergoing an MRI on Monday.
"I'm not talking about anything," Culpepper said. "We don't know the extent of the damage right now. I really can't talk about it until we do the MRIs and find out."
Vikings trainer Chuck Barta said the team hadn't ruled out a possible torn anterior cruciate ligament in Culpepper's knee.
"Football is a contact sport," receiver Marcus Robinson told the Star Tribune when asked if the hit could be called dirty. "The guy came in from the side, yes. He could have hit Daunte up high, but he came down low. That's part of the game. That's part of football. Unfortunately, you hate to see an injury come because of it."
Brad Johnson replaced Culpepper and went 13-for-28 for 162 yards and a touchdown in Minnesota's 38-13 loss to the Panthers.
"We have to rally around Brad," Tice said. "Brad doesn't have the same arm Daunte has, [but] Brad has played a lot more games than Daunte has. We can make up for the different styles by going to more short passing to give ourselves a chance to suit his style.
"Brad is a very good quarterback, he's won a Super Bowl. We have faith in Brad."Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.