MIAMI (AP) – Daunte Culpepper finally has what he asked the Miami Dolphins for weeks ago – a chance to start over with a new team.
Miami released the former Pro Bowl quarterback Tuesday, wrapping up a contentious split between player and team. The move came one day before a breach-of-contract grievance filed by the NFL Players Association on Culpepper’s behalf against the Dolphins was scheduled to be heard, and after Miami unsuccessfully tried for weeks to trade the 30-year-old.
Culpepper – who became expendable once the Dolphins made a trade six weeks ago with Kansas City for Trent Green, who’ll be Miami’s starter entering this season – said he got word from his attorneys about the release on Monday night.
“As I was going through this process I heard about a quote by Gandhi that best expresses my thoughts about this victory: ‘First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win,”‘ Culpepper, who serves as his own agent, said in an e-mail. “Now that I have won my freedom and I get to choose my next team, I am just like many other people who have to go out and find employment so that I can take care of my family.”
The Dolphins, who announced the move in a one-sentence e-mail, did not have further comment.
“The best possible result we could have gotten in the arbitration is what we got in this settlement, so we are obviously pleased,” said Richard Berthelsen, the NFLPA’s general counsel. “We do wish, for Daunte’s sake, that his free agency could have happened sooner, but we look forward to his having a great season with a new team.”
Miami acquired Culpepper before the 2006 season, even though the 6-foot-4, 265-pound quarterback was coming off major surgery to rebuild his right knee, which he shredded the previous year while playing with the Minnesota Vikings. Culpepper was cleared to start last season’s opener with the Dolphins, but struggled with his mobility and was sacked 21 times in the first four games.
He didn’t play again with the Dolphins, who shut him down so he could continue rehabbing and eventually placed him on injured reserve.
Culpepper continued to train and vowed to be ready for this season, yet the Dolphins and new coach Cam Cameron decided Green would be a better fit for the offense.
Green made his practice-field debut with Miami on June 8, the same week where team doctors told Culpepper he was finally ready to resume full workouts with the team – an announcement that was quickly tinged in irony. Culpepper said Dolphins’ quarterback coach Terry Shea said during that minicamp practice he wouldn’t be allowed to take snaps with the regular offense and was limited to individual drills.
So Culpepper walked off the field as Green and other quarterbacks worked against Miami’s defense, correctly predicting that would be his last workout with the full team.
“It’s sad that it didn’t work out for Daunte,” Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown said that day. “He’s a good guy and he’s worked hard and I think he’s been a good teammate. Sometimes things just don’t work out.”
With training camps set to open in the next couple days, Culpepper – who, in 84 games as a starter, has completed 64.2 percent of his passes for 21,091 yards and 137 touchdowns – will be moving quickly to find a new club.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are thought to be among his potential suitors; coaches there told quarterbacks Byron Leftwich and David Garrard earlier this offseason that they would consider acquiring him before training camp if he was available. Culpepper had his best NFL seasons with the Vikings under coach Mike Tice, now an assistant head coach in Jacksonville under Jack Del Rio.
“I just hope that there is still a team or two out there that has an opportunity for a hard working quarterback who is willing to come in and contribute wherever needed,” Culpepper said. “I am ready to get into a training camp so that I can prepare for the 2007 season.”
The Dolphins would have owed Culpepper $5.5 million this season.
It’s not known if they came close to moving him in a trade; Culpepper vowed to block any such moves, saying he wouldn’t accommodate the Dolphins by agreeing to a new contract. His existing deal, which would have paid him $51.5 million through 2013, made it nearly impossible for Miami to find a team to trade with.