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Culpepper might start for Lions five days after signing

ALLEN PARK, Mich. --The Detroit Lions tried to be coy about how much Daunte Culpepper practiced Wednesday and whether their new quarterback will play just days after signing.

In the locker room, though, it seemed obvious Culpepper is expected to make his Lions debut against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"We're throwing him in the fire right away," captain Cory Redding said. "I feel like it's something he can handle because he's been in this league long enough. It's like riding a bike."

Coach Rod Marinelli and Culpepper declined to reveal how the first-string snaps were shared between the former star and second-year pro Drew Stanton.

But wide receiver Shaun McDonald provided at least a hint.

"It was pretty even," McDonald said when asked how the repetitions were divided. "Daunte might've had a little bit more."

Culpepper arrived in the Detroit area on Monday, was given a playbook when he signed a two-year deal Tuesday and then practiced the next day for the first time this year.

"I'm like a sponge right now, trying to absorb it all," he said.

Culpepper may make his Detroit debut in haste because Dan Orlovsky's injured right hand is severe enough to be covered by a soft cast and examined by a specialist and the team does not seem to be confident in Stanton.

Orlovsky, who started the previous four games, said he had "no idea" whether he could be ready to play this week.

Stanton hopes to get a chance to play in an NFL game for the first time.

Despite being a second-round pick last year, Stanton might not get a chance to play for the Lions, whose offensive coordinator said last week he didn't want to embarrass Stanton by putting him in a game because he wasn't ready.

Marinelli said Culpepper looked "solid."

"It's got to play out as the week goes," Marinelli said.

The 31-year-old Culpepper had 10 lackluster starts and 11 appearances in the previous two seasons for Oakland and Miami. He was a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback in Minnesota before a knee injury stunted his career in 2005.

"Believe it or not, I was contacted a lot since I had retired," Culpepper said.

Culpepper, who is his own agent, acknowledged being offered one-year contracts by Green Bay and Pittsburgh to be a backup. But he wanted a chance to start and he'll get that in Detroit.

Perhaps very soon.

"It's a great opportunity for me," he said. "I'm very thankful."

Culpepper's right knee was reconstructed with surgery in November 2005, then was repaired again a year later.

"I definitely feel that I can go out there and be myself," he said. "I'm 100 percent healthy and I feel great."

During individual drills that the media were allowed to watch, Culpepper smoothly handed off to running backs and showed he still has a strong arm. He connected with Calvin Johnson once on a deep out and also made crisp passes on shorter routes.

"He definitely throws with some zip," McDonald said.

Whoever is playing quarterback against the Jaguars, he might be taking snaps from a new center.

Dominic Raiola, who has played in all 120 games of his career and started the last 104, broke his right thumb in the previous game against Chicago. Raiola said if his right thumb can take a hit, he will snap with his left hand and play.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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