It’s clear the Vikings have a contract situation on their hands when it comes to Antoine Winfield.
The veteran cornerback continued to stay away from the Vikings’ Organized Team Activities on Thursday. Winfield, who is entering the last year of his contract and had talks break down with the team last month, has skipped all three sessions this week after missing the team’s mandatory minicamp last weekend. Coach Brad Childress said last Friday that Winfield would not be attending the minicamp because he was out of town at the funeral for the mother of a close friend.
Winfield is now back in town but he isn’t on the field at Winter Park. The OTAs are optional but Childress has invited all players to attend and only six were not on hand Thursday.
The fact Winfield has not been on the field for any practices is the real issue. That could have been partially explained away two weeks ago when the Vikings opened OTAs because Childress invited only a handful of selected veterans to the first four practices. The minicamp absence was odd in that Childress did not say if the team would fine Winfield but the veteran certainly had a reason for not being present.
Asked if this could now be called a contract situation with Winfield, Childress said: “I would not speak for him. I’d say you have to ask him. I’m not coloring it anyway. You would have to check his reasons.” Childress said he talked with Winfield on Tuesday morning at Tria Orthapedic Center in Eden Prairie where Winfield was getting his physical.
One possible concern for the Vikings could be that Winfield skipped the OTAs but did attend the minicamp two years ago. That was not contract related but because of what was believed to be an issue between Childress and Winfield. Winfield then missed six games in 2007 because of injury and said he would resume training with the team in 2008. He went on to earn a Pro Bowl berth last year.
So is Childress worried about Winfield not being around? “Not in and of itself,” Childress said. “He’s the one that made the statement that, ‘I wouldn’t miss again,’ and up until halfway through our offseason [conditioning] program he was perfect in his attendance. Like I said, it would be wrong for me to color it any specific direction, contractually or otherwise.”
Also not in attendance for Thursday’s non-mandatory practice were kicker Ryan Longwell; running backs Adrian Peterson, Chester Taylor and Kahlil Bell; and cornerback Asher Allen, a third-round pick in April. Bell, a rookie out of UCLA, has been unable to attend the offseason workouts because school responsibilities.
Childress said Peterson and Taylor have not been at the OTAs this week, adding “we’ll see,” when asked if the pair might be at Winter Park next week. Taylor rarely attends non-mandatory events, electing to workout in Houston. Childress declined to talk about why Allen wasn’t in attendance.
– Right guard Anthony Herrera (shoulder) and right tackle Artis Hicks (biceps) got some work with the first team during a group installation period. Herrera and Hicks, who both had offseason surgery, were very limited during the weekend minicamp. “It’s just part of their protocol,” Childress said. “They’ve done all the rehab, they’ve started the heavy lifting regiment again. … They are kind of chomping at the bit. They’d like to be out there included in some of these things but they are doing a decent job of coaching right now.” Rookie Phil Loadholt (right tackle) and Ryan Cook (right guard) have gotten work with the first team with Herrera and Hicks limited. So has right guard Brian Daniels.
– The Vikings and Kansas City Chiefs will not hold a joint practice this summer as they have done during past training camps. Kansas City trains in nearby River Falls, Wis. Childress said the decision was made after he talked to new Chiefs General Manager Scott Pioli in February at the NFL Scouting Combine. “They’ve got so many different things going on just with the new change that they thinking this year that they don’t want to do it,” Childress said. “That’s good with us. We’ve already got the schedule kind of [planned out] … I’ve got it on my desk still pondering it. But we’re not going over there.” Childress said the Vikings are not considering having a joint practice with any other team.
– Childress was asked about the decision to have his team in Mankato for training camp for two weeks this summer. Last year, the team was based in Mankato for about three weeks. “It’s two things,” Childress said. “We’re a later start this year [because of when the season opens] and [Minnesota State, Mankato] is starting a little bit earlier. They’ve got new student orientation. We could have gone back after our Indianapolis game [to open the preseason on Aug. 14] for just a couple of days but I didn’t see the sense in going back down the road with a day off on Saturday and then have to be back out on Tuesday. So we’ll set up shop here.”
– Childress said that second-year wide receiver Jaymar Johnson weighs 187 pounds after showing up at 169 pounds last year “soaking wet” after being selected in the sixth round of the 2008 draft. Johnson, who is 6 feet tall, spent last season on the Vikings’ practice squad. “I don’t know how he does it but he has 3 percent body fat,” Childress said. “He’s worked his tail off.”