Culpepper still experiencing back stiffness

For the second straight week, the Minnesota Vikings will turn to backup quarterback Gus Frerotte to step in for injured starter Daunte Culpepper, ESPN.com has confirmed.

Vikings coach Mike Tice will announce Thursday that Frerotte, who led the undefeated Vikings to a 35-7 rout of the 49ers last week, will start Sunday against the Falcons in Atlanta. At Minnesota's practice Wednesday, Frerotte took virtually all the snaps with the first-unit offense. Culpepper, meanwhile, did not participate at all Wednesday or Thursday.

Culpepper broke three small bones in his lower back Sept. 21, did not play last week, and was experiencing some stiffness Wednesday. Minnesota has a bye week after the Falcons game and the feeling is that, with additional treatment time, Culpepper will be fully recovered when the Vikings resume play Oct. 19 at home against the Denver Broncos.

It is likely, however, that Culpepper will serve as backup again this week, rather than be listed as the "emergency" quarterback. Culpepper and Tice indicated that Culpepper, a fifth-year veteran, could probably play if necessary. But it is obvious the Vikings prefer to be cautious.

Certainly the Vikings defense did not miss a beat with Frerotte in the lineup last week.

A 10th-year veteran journeyman playing for his fourth different team in five seasons, Frerotte completed 16 of 21 passes for 267 yards and four touchdowns against San Francisco. He wasn't intercepted and his quarterback rating was a near-perfect 157.2.

His performance might have been even beyond what Minnesota coaches and players expected, but Tice knew when the Vikings signed him that they were getting a passer capable of big games. The Vikings signed Frerotte to a two-year contract after trading longtime backup Todd Bouman to New Orleans and considering free agent Jeff George as a potential backup.

Frerotte, 32, had 62 previous starts before last Sunday and, while he averaged only 53.7 attempts the past three seasons, the veteran was still viewed as a guy who could still play well in spots. On Sunday, he will face an Atlanta secondary decimated by injuries and the Wednesday suspension of starting cornerback Tyrone Williams for "conduct detrimental to the team."

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.