As the Vikings said their goodbyes to one another Monday while closing the door on the 2011 season, Antoine Winfield was one of the players that will be staying behind to shut off the lights and lock the doors. As he begins his offseason rehab program, he is looking to a lot of things being different in 2012 – from his return to the starting lineup to reversing the team's 3-13 record to acknowledging that many of the teammates he said goodbye to won't be on the team next year.
But one thing he won't be changing is his position. Winfield made it clear that, while the Vikings are going to change, one of the changes fans won't see is him moving inside to safety.
Asked if he believes the Vikings' roster will be vastly different in 2012, he said it would seem almost inevitable, given the circumstances.
"Of course," Winfield said. "This is professional football and we're coming off of a 3-13 season. Of course change is going to be made. Where? I don't know."
But when it comes to a potential move to safety, a glaring weakness much of the last several seasons in the Vikings defense, Winfield was unequivocal in his insistence that, good, bad or otherwise, he won't be in that mix in Mankato next summer.
"Safety is not my position," Winfield said. "I like to be in the action, so I will be a corner."
Winfield said that, while it may seem simple to make a move from cornerback to safety, it is like playing two completely different positions. The skills sets aren't the same. The responsibilities aren't the same and, in his mind, the chance of seeing it happen aren't sane.
"It's totally different," Winfield said. "I come at a different angle. From the outside, usually you see Adrian Peterson or a big guy running right at you, it's a lot different. You've got to have leverage. I've been playing corner forever. That's my spot."
Winfield has been forced to play outside the hash marks for most of his NFL career, but, when he is at his best, he has been playing in the slot against shifty receivers like Percy Harvin and Wes Welker. When he plays that position, he is like being a pint-sized linebacker and it plays to his strengths. While he objects to moving to safety, playing most of his time in the slot on the inside would be welcomed. He feels at home there, even though he hasn't spent a lot of time there the last couple of seasons.
"I've always played in the nickel, since I was at Ohio State," Winfield said. "That's always been my favorite position. I love being in there where all the action is – I can blitz and do some other things. I see myself there."
Winfield won't have much of a chance to enjoy his offseason. Six weeks removed from surgery, he starts his offseason rehab program Tuesday – the first possible day to start the process. He will stay in Minnesota throughout the winter and said he has clearly defined future plans – play two more years and call it a career.
"That would get me to Year 15," Winfield said. "I expect to hang them up after that."
Winfield believes the Vikings are capable of achieving their Super Bowl goals that were so close two years ago but seem like a distant memory now. The team is getting younger all the time and he said the changeover has been apparent at times, as depth has been tested beyond its limits. He was quick to point out that the team that left Mankato could never have been expected to go 3-13.
"We have the core – defensive line, linebackers, secondary – we just need to make more plays," Winfield said. "We just have to finish games. We had some tough ones early, where we had leads and somehow let them slip away. (We need to) get some confidence early and get some wins. We'll be good."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Winfield: Cornerback is ‘my spot'
Viking Update Top Stories
Recruiting, college analysts assess CookWhat was Dalvin Cook in college and what will he provide the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL? Recruiting and college football analysts weigh the positives and negatives.
Viking Update9:54 AM
What did Vikings accomplish with draft?Nick Kostos, Pete Prisco, D.J. Williams and Brady Quinn recap how the Minnesota Vikings did in this year's draft.
Viking Update8:37 AM
Rick's review: Spielman reviews Vikings draftMinnesota Vikings GM Rick Spielman reviews the late-round picks and the draft in general.
Viking UpdateYesterday at 5:42 PM
Hodges: ‘I want to be a legend’Some players love being selected in the sixth round of the NFL draft. New Minnesota Vikings tight end Bucky Hodges is not one of them.
Viking UpdateYesterday at 5:20 PM
VIKINGS DRAFT BOARDThe picks, reaction from players and Minnesota Vikings, analysis, videos and more building throughout the draft.
Viking UpdateYesterday at 4:00 PM