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Culpepper works out as 49ers look for veteran QB
SANTA CLARA, CALIF. (AP) - Daunte Culpepper threw passes to tight end Nate Lawrie once again, on a little bigger stage this time than during their stint together last year with the United Football League’s Sacramento Mountain Lions.
“I was catching balls for him during the workout, and he was throwing it around pretty good. He’s spinning it well,” said Lawrie, who signed a one-year deal with San Francisco on Sunday. “Daunte’s got a ton of experience. He’s got a lot of success in this league. And the guy can play, he can throw the ball. That’s what it all boils down to.”
The Niners apparently believe Culpepper can still bring it despite a year in the minors.
They were considering adding Culpepper to their quarterback mix after coach Jim Harbaugh said Saturday there’s a need for a veteran backup behind projected starter Alex Smith and rookie Colin Kaepernick. Harbaugh’s offense was ineffective in a 24-3 exhibition loss at New Orleans on Friday night _ and he is determined to be better come Saturday’s home preseason game with the Oakland Raiders at Candlestick Park.
Tight end Delanie Walker made it sound like Culpepper had already joined the team. The 49ers had not made any kind of announcement other than Harbaugh acknowledging Sunday that Culpepper would get a tryout. Culpepper wasn’t on the field when practice began.
“I’m just happy that we got him. He can help the team out with his expertise and give the quarterbacks some pointers on what he’s seen, and help Alex and Colin out,” Walker said before Monday afternoon’s practice. “I think it’s going to be a good look for us and I’m glad to have him out here.”
The 34-year-old Culpepper, who was still at team headquarters for lunch, last played in the NFL for the Detroit Lions in 2009. He started five games and played in eight total. In 11 NFL seasons, he has passed for 24,153 yards and 149 touchdowns.
A three-time Pro Bowler, he spent his first seven seasons with the Vikings, then one year each with Miami and Oakland before two years in Motown.
“Just experience, knowing the game and having been in it,” receiver Ted Ginn Jr. said of Culpepper’s potential positive influence. “It’s something that we can’t worry about. Whoever steps in there, you should be right for him.”
Smith, the 2005 No. 1 overall draft pick out of Utah, is still the front-runner to win the starting job _ though Harbaugh hasn’t named him the top guy yet. In recent days, Harbaugh has called it a competition between Smith and second-round draft pick Kaepernick.
Culpepper could provide guidance to both QBs _ and some insurance to a franchise eager to finally turn around its fortunes. San Francisco hasn’t had a winning season or reached the playoffs in eight years.
Lawrie appreciated Culpepper’s veteran presence and humility in the UFL last season. They ran what Lawrie referred to as a “hybrid” version of the West Coast offense, so he sees Culpepper having no problems picking up Harbaugh’s playbook in a hurry.
“He’ll fit right in,” Lawrie said. “He’s friendly, outgoing and connects well with players, which is a great asset for a quarterback. He has played for years and done a lot of great things. He knows football and that’s pretty clear. It comes from taking a lot of snaps.”
Notes: WR Michael Crabtree, missing his third straight training camp, was all smiles and said he is “encouraged” by the progress of his injured left foot. Crabtree _ on the physically unable to perform list _ was moving around without his walking boot Monday.
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