Winfield's absence continues

Cornerback Antoine Winfield continued to stay away from the Vikings' offseason practices this week in what has obviously become a contractual issue.

The Vikings recently conducted their mandatory three-day minicamp with only one veteran player absent. Cornerback Antoine Winfield wasn't in attendance because, according to coach Brad Childress, he was attending the funeral for the mother of a close friend.

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.


  • The most impressive player in the Vikings' offseason practices to date might have been first-round wide receiver Percy Harvin. Harvin, who likely fell to the 22nd pick in the draft because of questions about his character, showed outstanding athletic ability. He also was one of three players with whom the Vikings are thinking of using at quarterback in the Wildcat formation. Running back Chester Taylor and wide receiver Darius Reynaud are the others. Harvin played some running back at Florida and his speed is going to force defenses to put a focus on him that should help running back Adrian Peterson.

  • C John Sullivan, entering his second season, is the starter with Matt Birk in Baltimore. Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said there is no question that Sullivan can handle the mental part of taking care of the line calls. Sullivan is listed at 6-1, 304 pounds and his biggest adjustment will come going up NFL-sized nose tackles.

  • The Vikings have yet to release their full training-camp schedule but they have announced they will open practice in Mankato, Minn., on July 31 and hold their final practice in Mankato on Aug. 12. The final practice will be two days before the Vikings open their preseason schedule in Indianapolis. Last year, the Vikings spent about three weeks in Mankato and this year it will be about two weeks. They will not scrimmage the Kansas City Chiefs as they have in the past.

  • The Vikings made a couple of roster moves after their three-day minicamp, releasing wide receiver Roderick Rogers (Wisconsin) and then signing receiver Bobby Williams (North Alabama). Rogers had been moved from safety to wide receiver this offseason.

    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.

  • Viking Update Top Stories