Duante Culpepper knows he's in only a short-term battle with Matthew Stafford for the Detroit Lions' starting quarterback job but insists he isn't worried about anything beyond this season.
Detroit took Stafford with the top overall draft pick in April. Since then, it's been clear that he, not the 32-year-old Culpepper, is Detroit's quarterback of the future.
"I'm not thinking about anything beyond 2009 right now," Culpepper, who joined the Lions midway through the first 0-16 season in NFL history, said Saturday after the team's first training-camp practice. "I'm focused on helping this team win some games."
Unlike last year, Culpepper spent the entire offseason as part of Detroit's program.
"That's a huge benefit when it comes to competition," he said. "Last year, it was like I was running a race where everyone had a head start. This year, I'm starting even."
While Culpepper unquestionably wants to be Detroit's starter, that doesn't mean he intends to be the competition with Stafford to be unfriendly.
"You want that level of competition. When you have guys competing like we are, that's when everyone is going to get better and that's where wins come from," he said. "Matt's a guy that wants to be good and wants to work hard, so we get along. That is how it has been since the day we met. We're going to push each other to get better."
Stafford said he feels the same way and that he has already learned a lot from his veteran teammate.
"We've had a bunch of practices together, and we're both pulling for the same thing: for this team to win," he said. "It's fun getting better. He's told me a lot of things about how he's gotten better over the years. I can't run like he does, but we've got similar arm strength, so I can learn from his experiences."
While Culpepper has been through numerous NFL training camps, Saturday was Stafford's first official practice.
"It's exciting, because now football season is right around the corner," he said. "In two weeks, we're going to be at Ford Field, playing our first preseason game."
NOTES: The Lions didn't wear pads for Saturday afternoon's opening workout. "We need to work our way back into things," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "When you haven't had any hitting for a month, and haven't had any real hitting all year, there's no sense jumping into it on the first day. We'll get into shoulder pads, and then go from that to full pads." ... Three players _ OT Ephraim Salaam, DT Sammie Hill and WR Demir Boldin _ failed Saturday morning's conditioning test and were held out of practice. "That's disappointing, because they passed when they left here a month ago," Schwartz said. ... WR Bryant Johnson was placed on the non-football-injury list because of lingering problems after a July golf-cart accident. DT Grady Jackson was placed on the non-football-illness list for an undisclosed problem, but Schwartz said he has recovered well from knee surgery.