Winfield proclaims his health, makes his mark

Antoine Winfield needed an injection and some time off, and now he says he's back to 100 percent after a frustrating season for an accomplished cornerback. It showed Saturday night.

Antoine Winfield felt the frustration of standing on the sidelines while his teammates were continuing to work through the best Vikings season of the decade last year.

A fractured foot in October sidelined Winfield for six games and severely limited him the rest of the season.

And now …

"Everything is completely 100 percent. I have no lingering injury – running, cutting, taking my reps out here today, I feel pretty good," Winfield said.

All it took was a few weeks of rest after the season, an injection to reduce the inflammation and the rest was nature's healing. By minicamp in June he was back to normal.

By Saturday night, he was intercepting two passes and back to his playmaking self, but before that practice Winfield reflected on the frustration of his 2009 season.

"It was tough. We were having such a great season. Of course I wanted to be out there and join in, but it was tough sitting on the sideline and watching," he said. "I was happy for the guys that got out there and got a chance to get some experience. Hopefully we'll get back to where we were last season."

The injury was painful enough that it affected him in the playoffs and he wasn't surprised to see other teams targeting him when he was far less than 100 percent.

"Of course. That's the game. You see a weakness out there and of course you're going to attack it. I was not close to 100 percent," he said.

"I really couldn't run or cut. I did it in October, so I couldn't do any lower-body exercises, I couldn't run. I didn't have any conditioning or any strength, so late in games my legs were completely gone."

Now it's the cornerback on the other side of the field, Cedric Griffin, that is sidelined to start the 2010 season after he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the NFC Championship Game.

That means the Vikings depth at the position will be tested, but Winfield likes the prospects he sees waiting to get their chance. Among the group is veteran acquisition Lito Sheppard, second-year player Asher Allen and rookie second-round pick Chris Cook.

"He's going to be a really good player," Winfield said of Cook. "He has great size, great speed. He knows the defense already. He's a competitor. I'm looking forward to playing with him this season."

Allen appears to have the best chance to really push Sheppard for the starting role if Griffin isn't ready by the regular-season opener on Sept. 9, and Winfield has been impressed with Allen's progress over the last year.

"Looking at Asher, he's improved so much. Just watching him, watching tape in the offseason, even working out here (Saturday), he's really improved," Winfield said.

No matter who gains the starting role, the depth is benefitting from the all the offseason additions.

"It's great competition, but that's great depth. The person that loses, he'll be the third or fourth corner," Winfield said. "Of course, in this league, you know that injuries happen, so we'll have a guy that can get out there with experience."

SATURDAY NIGHT NOTES

  • While Winfield was the big winner of the Vikings' most spirited practice yet, Sage Rosenfels was on the losing end. He threw four interceptions on the night. Here they are in order: 1) With Rosenfels going for Jaymar Johnson, Winfield read the route and broke on it for the first pick; 2) The Rosenfels-to-Johnson duo misfired again and Winfield was the recipient again; 3) LB Erin Henderson reached up for an interception on a pass that didn't appear to have a clear intended target; 4) Safety Husain Abdullah goes Winfield on the situation and jumps another route for the final interception of the night.

  • Rosenfels got some reps with the first team.

  • Fans filled Blakeslee Stadium to the tune of an estimated 7,000 in attendance, easily the most fans the team has drawn in years for a training camp event. After the practice, players were introduced to the crowd and threw footballs into the stands. Fans were also treated to a fireworks display. The team doesn't charge admission to the event, but Minnesota State, Mankato gets to keep the parking revenue at $7 per car.

  • In addition to his interception of Rosenfels, Erin Henderson also had a touch sack of Tarvaris Jackson during the second full-team play of the night.

  • Toward the end of practice, Everson Griffen also had a touch sack on Jackson.

  • Rookie Joe Webb connected with WR Marko Mitchell for 40 yards to end the first full-team session. Webb just missed a long completion later in practice when WR Logan Payne couldn't complete a diving attempt.

  • With Adrian Peterson experiencing some "tightening," Albert Young got many of the first-team reps at running back.

  • Jamarca Sanford could have had a highlight-film hit on Ray Small during a reception, but Sanford upheld the teammate pledge of training camp and backed off. Sanford received most of the first-team reps in place of Tyrell Johnson during the morning practice, but in the evening practice Johnson was back to being paired with Madieu Williams at safety.

  • Eric Frampton wasn't able to pull up quite as quickly, although he tried. On a Tarvaris Jackson pass intended for Greg Lewis, Frampton ended up making contact with Lewis when the receiver was in the air, sending him into a helicopter spin and a hard meeting with the ground. Lewis got up after a moment of gathering himself.

  • After John Sullivan got kicked late in practice, Jon Cooper assumed the center duties with the first-team offense to finish the evening.


    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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