Winfield Controversy Brewing? And Other First-Day-Of-OTA News.


The Minnesota Vikings began their first day of Organized Team Activities Tuesday, with the main organized activity being a two-hour non-contact practice (one wouldn’t expect a practice to be disorganized – especially now that Mike Tice is no longer the coach). The only piece of real news to come out of this session was the finger injury incurred by rookie TE Braden Jones, who the team signed as a non-drafted free agent. The Star-Tribune’s Judd Zulgad says that Jones made a few good catches before hurting himself and having to leave. Zulgad also reports that TE Visanthe Shiancoe, who the Vikes signed away from the Giants this off-season, had problems holding onto some balls thrown his way by first-team QB Tarvaris Jackson. Is it too early to start ripping Brad Childress for signing Shiancoe and letting solid veteran pass-catching TE Jermaine Wiggins go? Guess we should let a few actual practices go by first.

So it was a rather pedestrian day on the practice-field for the Vikes. Off-the-field, though, the news was a little juicier. According to reports, there were two no-shows for the OTA – CB Antoine Winfield and G Steve Hutchinson. The Hutch absence was an excused one, the result of his being at a charity golf tournament. Winfield, however, simply opted not to show up. And statements by coach Brad Childress about Winfield’s no-show lead one to speculate that there could be friction between the team and their top defensive back. Here’s what Childress said when asked why Winfield had failed to attend (via Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press):

"I really don’t know. You have to ask him that. He hasn’t been here in the off-season program, and that’s a guy’s prerogative. … Our players know how important this time of year is, and when you’ve had 96 percent of your guys here over the course of the off-season program, I need to focus on the guys that are here working hard, putting in every day."

And on whether Antoine would be present for the team’s mandatory mini-camp, which starts on June 1:

"I’m not even thinking about that. I’m thinking about the guys that are here and what we’ve got to get done here in the next four or five days."

Antoine’s no-show is news because of all the rumors floating around that he has asked to be traded. The initial report was that Winfield’s trade demand was tied to the team’s draft selection – that if they took QB Brady Quinn with the number 7 pick, hence signalling the beginning of a protracted rebuilding process, Winfield wanted to be moved. There has been no word from Winfield since. When asked about the rumored demand, Brad Childress said neither he nor anyone in the organization had been approached by Winfield about a trade.

This is pure speculation, but I think Winfield really does want to be traded. I think there was more than a grain of truth in the first rumor about his wanting to be sent elsewhere if the team meant to rebuild with Brady Quinn – but I think it goes farther than that. Tarvaris Jackson and Brooks Bollinger, when you really look at it, represent little greater reassurance that the team is in a win-now mode than Quinn would’ve been. I think what Winfield really wanted was for the team to get a more proven veteran this off-season – Trent Green maybe, or David Carr. This is the only way, in my mind, the team could’ve demonstrated to Antoine that they were really serious about making a run this year. But Tarvaris Jackson and Brooks Bollinger? Does anyone think they can make a serious push with either of those two at the helm?

We may be looking at a disgruntled Antoine Winfield for the duration of the season. Which only adds to the headaches of new defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, who inherits from the departed Mike Tomlin a unit that is nearly invincible against the run and well-nigh sieve-like against the pass. And still the defensive end situation is up in the air. According to Judd Zulgad, DE Erasmus James sat out practice, still recovering from knee surgery, but is expected to be ready for training camp. Also, Zulgad reports that last year’s starting right-end Kenechi Udeze, who failed to log a single sack all year, was relegated to second-team left-end today, while Darrion Scott and Ray Edwards handled first-team responsibilities. Meanwhile, the team’s big free-agent defensive signing, S Mike Doss (late of Indianapolis), continued his comeback from a torn ACL by participating in drills.

On the offensive side, WR Troy Williamson, who spent 2006 moving farther to the back of Brad Childress’s doghouse with each successive dropped pass, showed he’s still a long way from becoming a polished receiver by struggling with his footwork in individual drills (this from‘s Adam Doctolero). So his feet are messed up now too? I thought it was just his hands, eyes and head. Honestly, is there any part of this guy’s body that isn’t a disaster right now? How’s his pancreas doing? I hear his lymph nodes are actually in great shape.

Also, Adam Doctolero reports that new receiver Bobby Wade, signed away from Tennessee this off-season, was the most consistent of the 600 wide-outs the Vikings are currently featuring. And on the Adrian Peterson front: Doctolero says AP was “impressive again today, showing good burst and better than anticipated hands.” Peterson reportedly had to stretch out to catch some balls, and even snatched one out of the air one-handed in the flat. Can you say MVP?

Oh, and speaking of Peterson – his backfield running-mate Chester Taylor finally talked about the team’s decision to draft him. Said Taylor:

"They said they were going to give me some help. All they are doing is adding depth to our running back crew, so if I go down I’m confident these guys will be able to take over."

Adding depth? Hate to break it to you Chester, but you’re the depth.

(Brad Childress talks about today’s OTA session, courtesy KFAN)