Antoine Winfield walked out of the locker room before practice began Friday morning, he smiled for the cameras and took a razzing from beat reporters.
"Hey, ‘Toine," said defensive line coach Karl Dunbar with a wave from a distance. Then Winfield was all smiles and joking around with defensive linemen Pat Williams and Kenechi Udeze before the real work began.
It would seem like a warm welcome back for the starting left cornerback who has skipped all of the voluntary organized team activities (OTAs) to date. But with this being a mandatory minicamp this weekend, Winfield was back, but not promising he'd be at Winter Park next week for another round of voluntary OTAs.
"This is mandatory. Of course I'm going to be here. The offseason program, OTAs are voluntary," Winfield said. "I've been in this league long enough to know my body and know what I need to do to get ready."
He declined to comment on whether he had asked for a trade, but he did say he would be at training camp.
"I don't want to be a distraction to what Mr. Wilf is trying to accomplish," he said.
Winfield said he met with head coach Brad Childress for about 15 to 20 minutes on Thursday – "both of us said some things and got it off our chests, but we're going to keep that between us," Winfield said – and Childress wouldn't characterize the tone of the talks. Winfield didn't want to give any more details, although he called reports about him being unhappy with his contract "so far from the truth."
He said he's been in Minnesota working out, and Childress said Winfield looked like he was in good condition and was at his target body weight.
"The guys know me. They know I work hard and they know I'll be ready by the time the season comes," he said.
Some believe Winfield's absence was a protest to how things ended up last year, and he didn't dispel that line of thing.
"Physically, it was tough. With all the talent we had, we definitely expected to get into the playoffs," Winfield said. "To go 6-10 and finish the way we did with the outing in St. Louis, it was not Viking-style football. We didn't hang our hats out there. It was like guys were out there just trying to not get hurt going into the offseason. But they made some moves, we're expecting big things this year, hopefully get into the playoffs and get a chance to get to the Super Bowl."
For now, Childress was just happy to see Winfield back on the field.
"It's good to have all hands on deck," said Childress, who acknowledged that he can't make players show up for voluntary workouts. "He's a professional and he's a good football player."
Winfield regained his starting spot on the left side, but it remains to be seen if he'll be at Winter Park again on Tuesday when the practices switch from mandatory to voluntary.
Winfield Inserted Back as Starter
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