Sanford feels the effects of roster decisions

Perhaps no player on the Vikings' roster was affected as much personally by personnel decisions as safety Jamarca Sanford, who lost three good friends to another market in less than a month.

Jamarca Sanford has always been a loud and energetic player.

Not sure where Sanford is during a Vikings practice? His high-volume, raspy voice with a Mississippi drawl is likely to give him away. It's become even more of a presence over the last few years as Sanford's role in the defense and confidence has grown.

However, the targets of Sanford's good-natured and welcomed trash talk during sometimes laborious offseason practices has dwindled by at least three.

Perhaps no other player on the Vikings roster was affected as much personally by the team's personnel decisions in March as Sanford. He was close with all three of the 2012 starters that will be missing in 2013 – Antoine Winfield, Jasper Brinkley and Percy Harvin.

"I was shocked," Sanford said of losing Winfield, "but that's the nature of the biz. Being in the NFL, nothing is ever a surprise."

The Vikings made different decisions on all three of their former players.

Winfield was asked to take a pay cut when the Vikings met with his agent at the NFL Scouting Combine, but when that didn't happen the team released him just before the start of free agency to clear salary cap space. His scheduled salary of $7.25 million didn't match with the Vikings' youth movement (he will turn 36 later this month).

After releasing him, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said the team wasn't closing the window on Winfield's return and they continued to negotiate with him, but the Seattle Seahawks also entered the equation. Sanford certainly wasn't ready to have the Winfield window slammed shut in Minnesota.

"He already knew how bad I wanted him here," Winfield said. "I told him. I said, ‘You've got to get me one more year.' We talked about that at the end of last year. But, you know, things didn't work out that way. He's in another place and I just wish him nothing but the best."

Winfield settled for a one-year contract, but it was with Seattle, where he is scheduled to make a $1 million base salary and another $1 million in bonuses.

Of course, that wasn't the only Viking of 2012 to become a Seahawk of 2013. Receiver Percy Harvin took the trade winds to Seattle when he essentially forced the Vikings' hand into dealing him.

While Winfield took a pay cut, Harvin was the beneficiary of being young and productive, and the Seahawks dished out a six-year, $67 million contract that included a $12 million signing bonus.

Being a receiver, Harvin also provided a fun-loving verbal sparring partner for Sanford during full-team drills in practices. In training camp last year, it created an interesting dynamic when rookie safety Harrison Smith put a hit on Harvin that the receiver took exception to. Sanford had to choose between a new defensive backfield mate and long-time friend Harvin and proceeded to give Harvin a good-natured ribbing.

The final blow to the Sanford's friends-and-teammates circle came when the Vikings allowed linebacker Jasper Brinkley to sign with the Arizona Cardinals as an unrestricted free agent. The Vikings decided to re-sign fellow linebacker Erin Henderson and move him to the middle while Brinkley signed a two-year, $3.5 million contract with the Cardinals.

"Percy, Jap and Antoine, that hurt me," Sanford said. "But like I said, that's the nature of the biz. They're in another place and I just wish them all the best."

Sanford also was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent, but he returned to the Vikings on a two-year, $5 million contract and is expected to remain the starting strong safety alongside Smith.

With both Harvin and Winfield on the Seahawks, it will make for an interesting matchup Nov. 17 when the Vikings travel to Seattle. As expected, Sanford isn't waiting for that date to remind his former teammates that remain his friends about it.

"We've already been talking smack back and forth, me and Percy," Sanford said. "I just look forward to the battle and just look forward going into battle."


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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