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Notebook: Culpepper upgraded to questionable

The Associated Press

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Daunte Culpepper was upgraded to questionable by the Minnesota Vikings on Friday, meaning there’s a 50 percent chance the injured quarterback will play against San Francisco.

Culpepper and coach Mike Tice said it will be a game-time decision.

“I feel good, and I’m always getting better,” Culpepper said as he left practice.

Culpepper, who leads the league with a passer rating of 108.0, has three small broken bones in his left lower back and a fourth that’s partially broken. He practiced yesterday for the first time this week, splitting time with Gus Frerotte on the first team.

Wide receiver Randy Moss, who has back spasms, also practiced yesterday for the first time this week. He was upgraded to probable and will play Sunday.

Culpepper’s injury normally requires at least two weeks of recovery, but the quarterback has made considerable progress since he was hurt last Sunday in Detroit. He landed in the end zone on a touchdown run and was hit by Lions linebacker Wali Rainer.

“If he continues to progress the way he’s progressing, we’re going to have a tough decision to make,” Tice said. “I don’t see that the injury can get any worse.”

Culpepper’s status will depend on how much pain he’s in and how well he can move around behind the line of scrimmage. His mobility in yesterday’s practice was good, Tice said.

LEFTWICH LIKELY TO START

Jaguars rookie quarterback Byron Leftwich most likely will make his first NFL start Sunday, with Mark Brunell downgraded to doubtful for the game against Houston.

Brunell injured his elbow in the first quarter last weekend against Indianapolis and needed five stitches after the game. He has not practiced this week and was listed as questionable when the team’s first injury report came out Wednesday.

Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio wasn’t available yesterday, but told a national radio audience it is “very unlikely” Brunell will start.

“I’m ready to go,” Leftwich said following a short team workout yesterday. The 6-foot-5 rookie from Marshall has taken most of the snaps in practice this week, with No. 3 QB David Garrard getting the rest.

NFL FINES SMITH, BRONCOS

The NFL fined the Denver Broncos $25,000 for showing up in the wrong colored uniforms for a game against San Diego and fined wide receiver Rod Smith $20,000 for accidentally hitting an official.

The Broncos were penalized for wearing white uniforms Sept. 14 against San Diego, even though Denver had agreed beforehand to wear dark uniforms.

Home teams declare which uniform they will wear for each game before the season, and the Chargers had chosen white for that game. Now San Diego will choose which colored jersey they will wear when they play in Denver on Nov. 16.

“I knew we would be fined something,” Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said yesterday. “That’s a little bit of a slap on the wrist. They knew it wasn’t intentional or the fine would have been a lot more.”

Smith was fined for striking umpire Undrey Wash during Monday night’s 31-10 win over Oakland. Smith got tangled with Raiders defensive tackle Chris Cooper after a six-yard reception and took a wild swing that struck Wash.

QUICK HITS

Bills running back Travis Henry might be unable to play Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles because of torn rib cartilage. He is listed as questionable and did not practice this week. The Bills had hoped he would be able to work out yesterday, but that did not happen. … St. Louis Rams rookie linebacker Scott Shanle was suspended for four games without pay yesterday for violating the NFL’s policy on anabolic steroids and related substances.


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