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Daunte Culpepper Working out for San Francisco 49ers: Any Gas Left in the Tank?

DETROIT - JANUARY 03:  Daunte Culpepper #11 of the Detroit Lions celebrates a fourth quarter touchdown while playing the Chicago Bears on January 3, 2010 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. Chicago won the game 23-37. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Zach KruseSenior Analyst IAugust 15, 2011

The San Francisco 49ers have identified a need on their roster—a third quarterback with NFL experience—and are willing to try out any names in order to fill it, including bringing in Daunte Culpepper for an official workout. 

With the 49ers depth chart filled at the top with Alex Smith and rookie Colin Kaepernick, Culpepper might not be asked to do much if signed. But San Francisco obviously doesn't feel comfortable with only having Smith and three rookies (Kaepernick, along with McLeod Bethel-Thompson and Jeremiah Masoli) at quarterback, and bringing in Culpepper for a workout only confirms that thinking.

However, it's still an appropriate question to ask if the 34-year-old Culpepper even has anything left in the tank to give to an NFL roster.

Once a three-time Pro Bowler with the Minnesota Vikings, Culpepper hasn't played in the NFL since 2009, when he started five games for the Detroit Lions and threw three touchdowns against six interceptions.

Since then, he played with the Sacramento Mountain Lions in the United Football League (UFL) during the 2010 season, reuniting with former Vikings coach Denny Green. Culpepper started eight games, throwing 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions with 1,944 yards.

He's now attempting another shot at the NFL, and if Harbaugh likes him enough during their workout Monday, it's likely he'll be signing a deal to join the 49ers.

Culpepper just wasn't the same quarterback after leaving Minnesota, and a big part of that was due to a horrific knee injury he suffered during his final season with the Vikings (2005).

The knee never seemed right after being traded to the Miami Dolphins, and he bounced around from Oakland to Detroit before leaving the NFL.

In those seasons after Minnesota, Culpepper couldn't find the kind of success he had with the Vikings. In 2004, Culpepper threw for 4,717 yards and 39 touchdowns against just 11 interceptions—a season that was overshadowed by Peyton Manning's record-setting 49 touchdowns that same year.

However, in Culpepper's five seasons after '04, he never posted a passer rating higher than 78 and failed to throw 10 touchdowns in a single season. He missed significant portions of each year as well.

Now, at age 34, it'd almost be safe to assume that Culpepper's tank is running on fumes. He might get a chance to be in 49ers camp, but his best chance of making the roster is as the No. 3 quarterback. 

Harbaugh wants a guy with NFL experience to help him mentor Kaepernick and push the other two rookies in camp. Here's what the 49ers head coach had to say, via the San Jose Mercury News:

"It's an opportunity to look at a veteran quarterback, put a third guy on the roster who's been there before and has had game experience," Harbaugh said. "We'll see where he's at physically, see where's he's at mentally and emotionally. I'm looking forward to a good workout."

While Harbaugh expects a good workout, I'm not sure whether he'll get that from Culpepper. He's a long time removed from his best days as a quarterback, and you'd have to think his knees still give him trouble from time to time. 

Culpepper might be refreshed and refocused mentally after his time in the UFL, but to expect much from him as an NFL quarterback is living outside the realm of the reality. 

He might be able to teach a thing or two during camp, but Daunte Culpepper's tank as an NFL quarterback might be running on the last bit of fumes. 

If he fails Monday's workout, that tank might finally run out on Culpepper's NFL career.

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