CBs accentuate Winfield's tackling prowess

The tackling struggles of the younger cornerbacks point out just how good Antoine Winfield is at getting ball carriers to the ground. Winfield talked about his tackling skills and the mindset the younger cornerbacks have to have if they are going to play in the Vikings defense.

The Vikings had issues with their cornerback coverage early in Saturday's 14-3 loss to the Tennessee Titans in the preseason opener, but tackling might have been a bigger a concern.

That wasn't limited to the cornerbacks or even the secondary. Every level of the defense missed tackles, but one of the best tacklers in the NFL, Antoine Winfield, addressed the topic Monday and encouraged the cornerbacks who were starting for him and Cedric Griffin. Getting the veteran nod to save himself for another game, Winfield turned into a voice of experience on the sideline that ended up encouraging replacements Asher Allen and Chris Cook.

"It's going to be a challenge every time you're out there. I don't care how long you play this game, you're going to give up plays," Winfield said. "Those receivers and quarterbacks are too good, but it's all about how you come back the next play. You can't get down on yourself because you give up a touchdown or a big catch. Just try to forget it and make the next play."

Cook was the unfortunate victim when he saw Tennessee quarterback Jake Locker fumble the snap. When Locker recovered, he found receiver Yamon Figurs had plenty of open space behind Cook and fired a 38-yard touchdown at Cook's expense. But, despite the coverage issues, missed tackles were one of the first things that Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, a former cornerback himself, pointed out in assessing the tape.

"Probably early on the tackling wasn't what we would like and our players know that and we pointed out some things on tape," Frazier said. "… Tackling was probably the thing that jumped out with a couple of guys that we've got to improve on."

That has never been a problem for Winfield, who appreciated getting the day off among a select group of veteran defenders. As a 13-year veteran, that skill is simply engrained in Winfield.

"For me, it's become natural. I've been doing it for such a long time and I'm great at it and I know I'm good at it. It's all about confidence," he said. "If you're not a hitter, other teams see the film and they know you're not a hitter so they'll run at you and challenge you in that way. I've been doing it for such a long time that I don't have to practice it."

Even after a dozen years in the NFL, Winfield is still ultra-productive in tackles. Last year, he finished third on the team with 110 tackles, a franchise record for a cornerback. His 25 career takeaways as a Viking moved him into sixth place on the all-time franchise list among cornerbacks.

So what can Winfield do to help the younger cornerbacks like Allen and Cook?

"It's all about a mindset. You have to be willing to do it," he said. "You have to be willing to stick your head in there, especially in this defense. The corners have to be able to tackle. They're going to try to bounce all the runs out to the corners. That's why you see me and Griff making 80 or 90 tackles a year. If you're not willing to tackle in this defense, you're not going to play."


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



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Just try to forget it and make the next play.\" Cook was the unfortunate victim when he saw Tennessee quarterback Jake Locker fumble the snap. When Locker recovered, he found receiver Yamon Figurs had plenty of open space behind Cook and fired a 38-yard touchdown at Cook's expense. But, despite the coverage issues, missed tackles were one of the first things that Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, a former cornerback himself, pointed out in assessing the tape. \"Probably early on the tackling wasn't what we would like and our players know that and we pointed out some things on tape,\" Frazier said. \"… Tackling was probably the thing that jumped out with a couple of guys that we've got to improve on.\" That has never been a problem for Winfield, who appreciated getting the day off among a select group of veteran defenders. As a 13-year veteran, that skill is simply engrained in Winfield. \"For me, it's become natural. 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