While there was no reason to think that Childress wasn't telling the truth, it also was hard to believe there wasn't more to the absence. Winfield is entering the last season of a six-year, $34.8 million contract in 2009 and negotiations between the sides broke down in early May.
There were no red flags raised when Winfield wasn't on hand for the Vikings' first four days of Organized Team Activities because only selected veterans were invited by Childress and Winfield wasn't on that list.
But Winfield's absence from the mandatory camp — a big-time rarity these days — and then his decision to continue to stay away from the OTAs this week certainly sent a message.
Childress declined to say if Winfield would be fined for missing the minicamp, and while the OTAs aren't mandatory, all players were invited to the latest session.
Winfield issued a statement to the Star Tribune on Thursday night. "I want all to know that I'm not at OTAs because I don't want to be there. I do want to be there! As I have stated before, I want to finish my career a Viking."
With Winfield gone from the practices, third-year player Marcus McCauley got many of the reps with the first team at left corner, opposite veteran Cedric Griffin.
It will be interesting to see if either the Vikings or Winfield's agent, Ashanti Webb, try to resume contract talks before the season. Winfield will turn 32 years old on June 24 and will be entering his 11th NFL season.
Listed at only 5-9, 180 pounds, Winfield might be getting up in years when it comes to longevity in the NFL, but he remains one of the league's best tackling corners and is coming off an outstanding season.
Winfield earned a Pro Bowl berth for the first time in his career in 2008 after tying for the team lead with two interceptions and finishing third with 96 tackles. He also broke up a team-leading 14 passes and had two sacks and nine tackles for a loss.
The Vikings are believed to be about $17.5 million under the salary cap and they could be waiting to see if quarterback Brett Favre scraps his second try at retirement before committing money to Winfield.
Winfield, meanwhile, might be bothered by a few other things in this situation, including the fact that Griffin received a five-year contract extension worth more than $25 million in March. But Griffin will be entering his fourth season in 2009 and is only 26 years old.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think it is a lot better at all areas. Our offensive line has been upgraded. Probably our biggest jump is our skill positions. Whether it is our three-deep at running back, or now you are talking about six or seven receivers that have viable chances for you. Our tight ends are strong. So I think the depth is much improved." — Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell talking about the talent he has to work with now compared to when he arrived in 2006.