Daunte Culpepper, unable to land a starting or backup job this offseason, announced his retirement at the age of 31.
Culpepper had one-year offers from the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason for backup jobs, but didn't find those offers suitable. Though his surgically reconstructed knee was healthy and his arm still strong during visits to those teams, Culpepper decided to end his career.
"After taking a long look at my career and my personal convictions, I have decided to begin early retirement from the NFL effective immediately,'' Culpepper said in an e-mail.
"Since the beginning of training camp, I was told my opportunity would come when a quarterback gets hurt. I cannot remember the last time so many quarterbacks have been injured during the preseason," Culpepper said. " I have been strongly encouraged from family, friends and league personnel to continue to be patient and wait for an inevitable injury to one of the starting quarterbacks in the league.
"I would rather shut the door to such 'opportunity' than continue to wait for one of my fellow quarterbacks to suffer a serious injury. Since I was not given a fair chance to come in and compete for a job, I would rather move on and win in other arenas of life."
The 11th pick in the 1999 draft, Culpepper played nine seasons for three teams -- the Minnesota Vikings, Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders. His best days were in Minnesota where he established himself as one of the league's top quarterbacks.
During his career, Culpepper completed 1,867 of 2,927 passes for 22,422 yards and 142 touchdowns. His career quarterback rating was a lofty 89.9. His best season was in 2004 when he threw for 4,717 yards and 39 touchdowns for the Vikings.
But he blew out his knee the next season, and his career wasn't the same afterwards.
Culpepper signed a one-year deal with the Raiders last season but didn't land another job.
"When free agency began this year, I had a new sense of excitement about continuing to rebuild my career in the same way that I had rebuilt my knee after my catastrophic injury in 2005,'' Culpepper said Thursday. "Unfortunately, what I found out was that the league did not share any of the optimism about me as an unrestricted free agent that I expected. In fact, there was an overwhelming sense that there was no room for me among this year's group of quarterbacks, whether in a starting, competing or a backup role.
"No matter what I did or said, there seemed to be a unified message from teams that I was not welcome to compete for one of the many jobs that were available at the quarterback position. It seems that the stance I took in both Minnesota and Miami regarding my rights as a person and player has followed me into free agency.''
Culpepper is one of the few players who hasn't had an agent. He represents himself.
"The decision I made in 2006 to represent myself rather than hire an agent has been an invaluable experience,'' Culpepper said. "I now understand why so many people with the NFL community are uncomfortable with a player really learning the business. The NFL has become more about power, money and control than passion, competition and the love of the game. Regardless of this shift, players' rights are still supposed to be part of this league. Since I will not be given the opportunity to honor the memory of Gene Upshaw by wearing a patch on my uniform this year, I will instead spend some of my energy applying what he taught me about standing up for what is right and not sitting down for what is clearly wrong.''
John Clayton is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.