Winfield isn't returning phone calls and the only public comments by agent Richard Katz didn't exactly clear things up. Katz told the NFL's website that Winfield would report for the Vikings' mandatory minicamp June 1-3 but said, "I can't comment" on whether Winfield would attend training camp.
Katz refused to elaborate on the reasons why Winfield has stayed away from the Vikings' Winter Park facility this spring.
"(Winfield) hasn't been here in the offseason program," coach Brad Childress said Tuesday after the initial OTA workout. "That's a guy's prerogative. ... This is the time of year when you get a chance to enhance the foundation that you laid last year, and see what we've added. I think it's an important time to spend with your teammates and coaches. Our players know how important this time of year is."
One school of thought is that Winfield is unhappy with the $35 million six-year free-agent contract he signed before the 2004 season. The deal included $10.8 million in guarantees.
While it looked good at the time, Winfield's deal was bypassed in a big way by his former Ohio State and Buffalo Bills teammate, Nate Clements. Clements received an eight-year, $80 million deal that includes $22 million in guaranteed money from the San Francisco 49ers this offseason.
Another school of thought is that Winfield isn't happy with the Vikings' direction after having been with a team that has missed the postseason in two of his three seasons. Childress said that Winfield has not requested a trade.
In fact, Winfield has told various teammates, including safety Darren Sharper, that he wants to stay in Minnesota. "The thing about this camp is that it's not mandatory," Sharper said. "You can't really look down on a guy if he's not here. You always like to have your guys here, but one thing we know about Antoine is that when it comes to Sundays, he's probably our best player here. We know we can count on him."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I've caught 13,000 balls in the three months since I've been back from Nike. (Receivers coach George Stewart) keeps track of all that stuff, and the other day he asked me how many balls I thought I had caught since Nike. I was going to say about 1,500. But it was 13,000. That's a lot. But I'm a professional. I want to conduct myself as a professional by taking this thing seriously." — Vikings receiver Troy Williamson, who spent two days being evaluated by a Nike vision consultant and found his right eye is weaker than his left.