Daunte Culpepper wasn't on an NFL field when the season kicked off Sunday. He wasn't even watching on television. The 11-year NFL veteran was busy watching film.
"I've got to watch tape of the Hartford Colonials," Culpepper said. "I'll watch the NFL here and there, you know, if a national TV game is on and I don't have anything to do."
Culpepper will kick off a different season as a member of the Sacramento Mountain Lions, who open their United Football League season Sept. 18 at Hartford.
"I want to showcase myself to those who doubted me because I was injured or for whatever reason," Culpepper said. "I just want to go and show them. I'm glad I have a platform."
But the 33-year-old former Vikings star said he has no interest in returning to the NFL this season. He is under contract with the UFL until the season concludes, which is either the regular-season finale on Nov. 13 or the championship game on Nov. 26. In the NFL, that would mean returning anywhere from Week 11 to 13.
"I am thinking more about the work I have to do here," Culpepper said. "If I am going to sign with an NFL team, I don't see myself doing it until free agency next year.
"If it's a super sweet situation, if that happens, I will cross that bridge when I get there."
The last time Culpepper felt fully healthy was in 2005 with Minnesota, before he suffered a devastating knee injury, tearing his ACL, MCL and PCL. He was coming off his last healthy season in 2004 in which he threw for 4,717 yards and 39 touchdowns.
"It pretty much shattered my knee," Culpepper said. "I was told it would take two years to fully heal. I tried to rush back. I was starting with the Dolphins (in 2006) within nine months of the injury."
Culpepper played in just four games in his lone season with Miami before having another knee surgery. He said he just began feeling back to his old self with Detroit last season.
"Now, there's no hindrance in my right knee," Culpepper said. "It has definitely been a mental and physical challenge. You really have to get to the point when you don't think about it -- that's when you are truly healed.
"Honestly, I feel great, as good as I ever felt physically. I'm throwing it as good as I ever have."
He's also reunited with his former Vikings coach, Dennis Green, and his Central Florida offensive coordinator, Mike Kruczek. Culpepper was talking with Green about the possibility of the quarterback joining the UFL when NFL free agency started.
"There wasn't a (NFL) team that really wanted me to be the guy, or a starter," Culpepper said. "It was either wait around for someone in the NFL to get hurt or sign with Coach Green. It was a no-brainer -- I wasn't going to wait for someone to get hurt when there was already a pro team without a quarterback."
The UFL brought in Culpepper to be one of the faces of the league as it begins to make greater strides in marketing itself. As policy, the UFL would not disclose the terms and conditions of Culpepper's contract.
"We have always prioritized putting a high-quality product on the field for fans to enjoy and adding Daunte Culpepper to the Mountain Lions roster continues that trend," UFL commissioner Michael Huyghue said. "He is an exceptionally talented player who will bring a wealth of experience and excitement to Sacramento and the league as a whole."
Culpepper headlines a list of other former NFL quarterbacks who play in the UFL, including Jeff Garcia of the Omaha Nighthawks, Josh McCown of the Hartford Colonials and Tim Rattay of the Las Vegas Locomotives.
"Most of our guys here have had NFL experience and were all phenomenal college players," Green said. "The coaching staff has a lot of experience. We run the same offense we ran at Minnesota where Daunte was so successful."
Green and Culpepper said the UFL talent is of NFL caliber. And Green once again sees the quarterback that he last coached in 2001.
"He is back healthy," Green said. "He had at least a two-year injury and had every kind of operation you can have. He is back running a 4.7 now. You watch his deep ball and it's as good as anybody in pro football.
"When I say he is one of the best throwers in pro football, I am talking about all of pro football," Green said. "Anyone who has watched him throw is like, 'Wow!' "