After missing offseason practices with a contract dispute, Antoine Winfield is taking on a larger role as the leader of the secondary, one of the few units on the Vikings that is relatively young up and down the roster. Plus, plenty of notes from Monday afternoon's practice.
There was something of an uncomfortable silence with cornerback Antoine Winfield
heading into the 2009 season. The vested veteran of the secondary with Darren Sharper
gone to New Orleans, Winfield stayed out of the OTAs and minicamps while he waited for a contract to get done.
Needless to say, Winfield could barely control his smile when asked if he was happy to get his contract signed and out of the way.
"It's a relief," Winfield said with a laugh. "Whoo! Trust me. I'm glad we got it done. We came to them early enough – back in March – that it gave us enough time to negotiate. We wanted to get it done before camp and we did. I'm glad it's over."
With his future set, Winfield is setting his sights on the present, which will entail helping teach the tricks of the trade to the younger members of the team.
"We have a lot of young guys who are learning the game," Winfield said. "Anything I can do to help them out, I do. A lot of times it is just a little something – being able to get in position just a little quicker or get a read on a tendency of a receiver – that can make all the difference."
For a veteran team like the Vikings, the secondary is the exception to the rule. Of the 15 defensive backs currently on the roster, Winfield is the only one with more than five years experience. Not only are the backups young, so are the starters. Winfield knows that the need for those young players to be ready is vital.
"You never know when an injury is going to happen and suddenly one of the backup guys is in the starting lineup," Winfield said. "I tell them that they have to be ready and be prepared because their number can get called at any time."
Winfield said he enjoys his role as a veteran, but don't go so far as to mention age. It's only a state of mind.
"I feel as good as I have in a long time," Winfield said. "(Age) is just a number. I'm feeling great and ready to show why the Vikings gave me a new contract."
MONDAY AFTERNOON PRACTICE NOTES
You could say Tarvaris Jackson is getting closer to the field all the time. After spending Sunday's practice and the Monday morning practice inside the Minnesota State-Mankato pool facility, he was on the field for the afternoon practice … sort of. He spent the first hour on a stationary bike and the end of practice standing with his offensive teammates in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills.
Cedric Griffin was sidelined to working with training staff during the afternoon after sustaining an undisclosed leg injury. He was wearing a walking boot on his left ankle at the end of practice.
DE Brian Robison also sat out the afternoon practice. After practice, he told VU he tweaked a hamstring and expects to be back on the field Tuesday.
Running back Kahlil Bell, who had a helmet-to-helmet collision late in the morning practice, also sat out the afternoon session.
Former Viking Rich Gannon, who now works for NFL Sirius Radio, was at practice Monday.
Agren Drew Rosenhaus, who represents several Vikings players, attended the afternoon practice. He said it wasn't a working visit, but rather that he attends several training camps each year to visit his clients.
Brad Childress was a little steamed at his first-team offense, which lined up incorrectly on the first play of the afternoon. It prompted Childress to have some words of sarcasm for them.
In the formation drills, it looked as though the team was implementing many of the formations that Percy Harvin will be involved with. While much of the personnel around him changed, Harvin remained on the field. He lined up in the same backfield as Adrian Peterson, came in motion from the slot, caught a screen pass, faked other trickery and was used as a standard receiver during different plays.
Jaymar Johnson had a solid practice, catching a 50-yard bomb in stride early in the practice and beat Madieu Williams and Tyrell Johnson for a similar bomb reception over the top in 7-on-7 drills.
Johnson had a scary moment during 7-on-7 drills. He leaped to catch a pass and was hit from behind by Benny Sapp, his right leg bent under him after he came down, but he popped up and played through the rest of the practice.
At the end of the individual drills, wide receiver Nick Moore had a chance to close the passing drills out with a leaping catch, but dropped it – getting a lot of groans from the fans.
At the start of the 7-on-7 drills, Harvin caught a deep pass from Sage Rosenfels behind Winfield, who seemed upset following the play for letting the rookie get behind him.
John David Booty had a chance to make safety Devon Hall look bad. He threw a bomb to Aundrae Allison and Hall leaped to try to bat the ball away. But he came up short and Allison made the catch and raced to the end zone.
Peterson had a couple of dropped passes during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills.
During 7-on-7 drills, tight ends Jeff Dugan and Garrett Mills failed to run their proper angles on their routes.
Jimmy Kennedy almost had the play of the day during 11-on-11 drills. He batted a Booty pass and almost had an interception, but he showed why defensive linemen don't have too many picks to their credit, as he batted the ball with both hands before it hit the ground.
On the final play of the 11-on-11 drills, Darius Reynaud went completely horizontal to make a circus catch.
Despite being hazy and warm, the humidity wasn't as oppressive as it had been predicted. It was warm, however, and Childress cut the practice about 20 minutes short.
The stands in the afternoon were about 80 percent full, which is fewer fans than previous practices. But they were about as vocal as any during training camp so far.