Winfield Has His Plan for T.O.

Antoine Winfield figures to face up against Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens a decent amount on Sunday, and the cornerback knows the many talents the wide receiver brings to the game. Winfield has a plan on how he'll face Owens and hope he doesn't get burned.

A couple of weeks ago, Antoine Winfield threw out the possibility of vacating his typical spot on the left side of the Vikings defense to follow Green Bay's Donald Driver wherever he went on the field. After short consideration, head coach Brad Childress shot down the idea.

While Winfield might want to make a similar request this week against Terrell Owens, one of the top wide receivers in the game today, he hasn't asked Childress if he can chase Owens around the field. He knows what the answer will be. But for his role Sunday against the Cowboys and, more times not, lining up opposite the enigmatic T.O., Winfield is hoping the Cowboys will assume Owens' six-inch height advantage will create a perceived mismatch. Is Winfield concerned? No. Does he know what his role will be in stopping T.O.?

"I'm not sure," Winfield said. "I'm staying on my side, but he comes over there a lot. The only time a cornerback has a chance to thrive is when he gets some action. I know he's going to get the ball thrown his way, so I have to be ready for it when that comes."

Owens, much like former Vikings wideout Randy Moss, has been a lightning rod of controversy for years, ranging from a Metrodome meltdown in his final season with the 49ers to telling then-offensive coordinator Childress of the Eagles to speak to him only when spoken to. Owens has built a reputation for running his mouth and constantly being a sound byte for TV and radio broadcasters to use.

It would seem like a natural transition for a player with a Type A personality like Owens to be a trash talker on the field. But Winfield said that isn't case. While he will flap his gums to reporters before and after games and some believe he's never met a spotlight he didn't like, he rarely jaws at opposing players during the game.

"He doesn't do much (trash talking) on the field at all," Winfield said. "He does his thing with the media off the field, but when he's on the field, he's all about playing ball."

Owens presents a lot of problems for any cornerback because he is one of the few wide receivers in the league that is truly a total package. Some players have speed to get deep. Others have the upper body strength to beat pressure coverage. Others have the guts to lay out for a pass down the middle of the field. Owens can do all of those things and do them well. Because of that, Winfield has to draw his own strengths to counter Owens' multiple gifts.

"My quickness is my advantage," Winfield said. "He's a big guy who's physical. He can run, so I'll probably play off him (at the line of scrimmage) and try to get a read on the quarterback and jump the route if he comes my way."

Winfield is no stranger to Owens. While T.O. was in his first season with Philadelphia and Winfield was in his first season with the Vikings, he caught a critical touchdown pass that, even three years later, Winfield still argues should not have been called a TD.

"He had one touchdown on me in that game, but it wasn't really a touchdown," Winfield said. "He juggled the ball going out bounds, but he got up and started one of his celebration dances and they gave him the touchdown. I guess the refs figured if he's celebrating, he must have caught the ball."

Winfield said he relishes the opportunity to hook up with Owens and wants quarterback Tony Romo to try him over the top. He knows that he makes a big play on Owens, it will be something that will be remembered, since there always seems to be at least camera on Owens at all times – whether he's on the field or not.

At the same time, Winfield realizes that he has to be at his best, because if he gets burned by Owens, he knows what will follow.

"In those situations, you know you can't make a mistake," Winfield said with a chuckle. "If you do, you're going to end up on Sports Center and you get phone calls from your family. I take it all in stride. I have fun with it. But I have to be on my ‘A' game and go out and make as many plays as possible."

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