Heading into training camp a month ago, one of the biggest concerns facing the Vikings was in the secondary. With Cedric Griffin on the shelf and Antoine Winfield returning from an injury-plagued 2009, the defensive backfield was one of the team's biggest question marks.
A month later, the Vikings appear confident enough in what they have at cornerback that, when the opportunity arrived to trade for a wide receiver to help out that depleted position, they sent cornerback Benny Sapp to Miami in exchange for wide receiver Greg Camarillo.
Winfield, who was as close to Sapp as anybody on the team, said he was stunned to learn that, after being pulled aside as the cornerbacks were heading into a team meeting, Sapp was informed that he had been traded.
"I was surprised," Winfield said. "He had a great season for us last year when I went down. I know earlier this offseason he signed a two-year deal, but that is the business side of this game. You never know what to expect."
When asked if he thinks the trade is an endorsement of the cornerbacks remaining, Winfield said it's hard to view it any other way.
"I think it does," Winfield said. "You have myself come back from injury. We added Lito (Sheppard), who is in his ninth year and been to some Pro Bowls, Chris Cook, a second-round pick, and Asher (Allen), who played a lot last year and got experience. We have a lot of depth back there, especially if those guys step up."
The handwriting may have been on the wall following the 49ers game, when Sapp was dropped to the third team corner position on the team's depth chart. Although it may not have remained that way once the games started for real, Sapp was displeased with his demotion, but understood the business side of football well enough not to make a big issue out of it.
"Those are things that we can't control," Winfield said. "The coaches let us know our playing time and we just have to go out there and produce."
The hardest part for Sapp may just be beginning. Although he's going home to South Beach, where he grew up, he's going to have to adjust to a new defensive scheme, new teammates and pull the plug on his life in Minnesota.
Winfield, who had to make a similar transition when he came to the Vikings from Buffalo, said the process isn't easy. As difficult as it was for him, he came to the Vikings through free agency in the offseason and had months to acclimate himself to a new defense and new teammates. Sapp got traded shortly before Miami's third preseason game, which magnifies the difficulties of what he is facing.
"It's tough," Winfield said. "You have to build relationships. He's going to a new defense and has to learn a new defense. It's a tough transition, because he has to uproot his family. I'm sure his kids were getting ready for school here and play football here. He has to do all those things tomorrow. It's a quick turnaround. It's tough. The season's right around the corner."
Winfield empathizes with Sapp's situation not just because he's been through similar circumstances, but, in the two years in which they were teammates, Winfield and Sapp formed a friendship that makes Sapp's leaving even more difficult.
"(Benny) was my guy," Winfield said. "He sat next to me at every meeting and was a really good friend. He's a really good player, he improved his game and worked so hard here. It's sad to see a brother go, but he's going back home and hopefully will get a chance to start there."
The flip side of that was be the arrival of Camarillo, who, while known to many football fans, didn't have the same sort of familiarity with all of his new teammates, including tight end Visanthe Shiancoe.
"Should I know him?" Shiancoe asked, before being reminded that Camarillo is his new teammate. "I don't know anything about him. I'll do my research tonight though."
The trade highlighted the differences in the two positions. In the last month, the wide receiver spot wasn't nearly as big a concern as it is now and the cornerback position was a major concern. A month later, the roles would seem to have been flip-flopped. While Shiancoe and his new offensive teammates will have to get to know Camarillo, he said anyone who can help the offense remain at the high level it was in 2009 is a big bonus.
"As many weapons as we can add on to this entourage, the better." Shiancoe said. "We've already got big-time players like Percy (Harvin), Adrian (Peterson) and Bernard (Berrian). The more depth we can bring here, the better for us."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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