With the Vikings' mandatory minicamp opening today, it would be easy to think the main player of interest could be Tarvaris Jackson, Chad Greenway, Adrian Peterson or Sidney Rice -- all players that have no or extremely limited experience as NFL starters. But much of the attention will be focused on one of the best corners in the game -- and rightfully so, for better or worse.

As NFL teams take part in their minicamps, certain players take center stage. When the Packers had their minicamp, Brett Favre was front and center. The same is true for players like Randy Moss in his new role with the Patriots and Michael Vick, under a shroud of controversy with the Falcons.

But, as the Vikings open their minicamp today at Winter Park, all eyes are going to be on Antoine Winfield. Arguably the best run-defending cornerback in the league and one of the top all-around corners, Winfield has become the focus of exactly how much the Vikings are buying into the Brad Childress Administration. When Childress took over the team, he sent a message to every player in the locker room by jettisoning Daunte Culpepper when he didn't take well to the change in the leadership. Other players that he didn't feel fit in his philosophy – noteworthy among them being Fred Smoot – were also sent packing.

The message was clear and easily observable. But Winfield is another story completely. He has been a team player from the day he came to the Vikings. He was one of a handful of players that, even after the worst of defeats, a media member could tap on the shoulder, request an interview and not be told to take off. In the process, Winfield has become a quotable member of the team whose frustration has bubbled forth. In 2005, he called out his own defensive mates for not giving their full effort. Last year, he asserted that the offense wasn't carrying its share of the load. In both instances, he was right. Leaders are allowed to call out their teammates. But, by the same token, they need to back it up by sticking with them when times get tough.

As VU reported last month, Winfield will show up for minicamp. He's a stand-up guy and that's what stand-up guys do. However, if his malaise is more than simply frustration – keep in mind that Winfield has been silent on the question on whether he's happy as a Viking or not – he needs to let the coaching staff and front office know. If you're a gambler, it's likely even money or better that Winfield will be in Mankato for the first day of training camp. If he isn't, that fact will likely be known before the weekend is out.

Perhaps it's time for an old-school "sit-down" between Childress, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and Winfield. He hasn't been grousing in the media about a trade, but it seems clear that something is amiss. Hopefully, they can reconcile any problems behind closed doors. But, today the doors will be open and, if he makes himself available, Winfield will be surrounded by the hot lights of the TV cameras and more reporters than he's used to dealing with. In less than 24 hours, we may find out much more about where the relationship between Winfield and the Vikings stands. Until then, it's wait and see. The ball is Winfield's court. He controls the situation. It's clear he hates to lose. But so does every NFL player. What matters now is whether he's willing to step in and be a leader in the rebuilding process of the Vikings.

* Frazier isn't concerned about Kenechi Udeze not recording any sacks last season. After Erasmus James went down five quarters into the 2006 season – some don't call that a missed season, but those who play the game don't remember the five quarters someone plays, they remember the 59 quarters they didn't – Udeze moved from left end to right end and wasn't the same. Frazier intends to keep Udeze where he feels comfortable – on the left side. It is likely a wake-up call, however – produce where you feel your best or else.
* Several Vikings players and coaches will take part in building a playground at the American Indian Magnet School a week from today in St. Paul. The construction is set to begin at 8:30 a.m.

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