Antoine Winfield (Rob Grabowski/USA TODAY)
Leslie Frazier appears to have learned a lesson about pressuring seasoned veterans out of retirement after the Brett Favre fiasco. Frazier is willing to talk with Antoine Winfield, who said he’s retired, but he isn’t going to try to change his mind. Plus, injury and roster updates from a Wednesday at Winter Park.
Leslie Frazier appears to have learned a lesson from the Vikings’ full-court press to get Brett Favre back in 2010.
During a stellar 2009 season in which Favre arrived in Minnesota with a chip on his shoulder and looking to prove that he could still play in the league, Favre led the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game and perhaps one ill-timed interception away from a Super Bowl berth.
But with a severe ankle injury suffered in the NFC Championship and 19 years of wear and tear on his body, Favre was ready to call it quits following the 2009 season. Then-head coach Brad Childress had other ideas, sending Ryan Longwell, Steve Hutchinson and Jared Allen to Mississippi to wrangle Favre away from his ranch for one more ride with the Vikings.
The three Favre friends were successful in their recon mission, but the Vikings season was anything but a success. It became clear Favre was done, and the Vikings finished 6-10 and out of the playoffs. Childress was fired after 10 games.
Favre went from 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions and a 107.2 rating in 2009 to 11 touchdowns, 19 interceptions and a 69.9 rating in 2010.
As defensive coordinator, Frazier was witness to all of that, which is why he laughed when asked Wednesday if he sent anyone to retrieve retired cornerback Antoine Winfield.
“No, no,” Frazier said with a laugh. “When a guy is retired, you’ve got to let him go through what he’s going through. You don’t want to be talking people out of retirement if that’s what they want to do.”
Winfield spent nine seasons with the Vikings before they released him prior to the start of free agency this year, hoping to re-sign him to a lesser contract. He chose, instead, to sign for less money with the Seattle Seahawks.
But after the Seahawks released him last weekend, he decided to retire.
Safety Jamarca Sanford, one of Winfield’s closest friends on the Vikings, said he knows Frazier won’t pressure Winfield to return. But that doesn’t mean Sanford can’t.
“As much as ’Toine loved the game, I’d hate to say he’s going to retire, but you reach the point in your career you did everything you wanted to do in this game – he didn’t win the Super Bowl, but some things you’re not going to accomplish. If he feels like he’s still got a chance, he can help us. We’d love to have him here. We can give it another run,” Sanford said.
“He’s the best slot guy I’ve seen, hands down. You’ve got a linebacker, a safety and a corner all in one. Every time we put on tape and we’re showing nickel defense in coverage, if he’s on the field, 26 got a highlight. It speaks for itself, the film that he put out there.”
Frazier said he texted Winfield in the last two days, but because they haven’t talked yet, he can’t be 100 percent sure his former star cornerback will stay retired. He knows one thing: He won’t be the one to pressure Winfield to come back if he doesn’t want to.
“I’ve texted him and just encouraged him. I’m hoping things go well for him,” Frazier said.
“Just encourage him to be whatever he wants to be. If retirement is what it is, good luck in retirement. Then if you want to talk, let’s talk about taking that next step after your career ends because it’s a big difference going from playing 15 years almost to going back to being just a regular citizen. It’s a transition and a lot of players struggle with that transition. If he ever needed to talk about that, I’d be glad to have that conversation.”
WILLIAMS STILL OUT
Defensive tackle Kevin Williams didn’t practice with the Vikings on Wednesday. He is still recovering from a hyperextended knee suffered in the third quarter of the team’s third preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers.
“He’s really improving. He’s making a lot of progress,” Frazier said before Wednesday’s practice.
Frazier said he probably won’t make a decision on Williams’ availability for the regular-season opener against Detroit until after Friday’s practice.
“If he’s not able to do much on Friday, then that will be a concern on whether to have him play on Sunday,” Frazier said. “But we’ll see. We’ll see how he progresses. He’s doing well so far. We’ll see how it goes as the week goes on.”
MOVING ON WITHOUT BALLARD
Williams isn’t the only defensive tackle with a question mark surrounding him.
Defensive tackle Christian Ballard left the team last month for “personal reasons” and was placed on the “exempt/left squad” list. Frazier said he talked with Ballard about a week ago and said “he’s doing fine,” but for now the team is moving on without him.
“I think you have to approach it that way. We’ve got to get these guys ready that are here. We’ve got to move forward,” Frazier said.
“If he decides he wants to come back, he would have to go through us before he gets to another team.”
In addition to Williams, QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson (illness) didn't practice Wednesday.
DT Sharrif Floyd (knee), DT Letroy Guion (finger), T Phil Loadholt (knee), WR Cordarrelle Patterson (back), S Mistral Raymond (shoulder) and S Harrison Smith (back) were limited.
CB Chris Cook (groin), LB Larry Dean (shoulder), LB Erin Henderson (heel) were full participants but still listed on the injury report.
For the Lions, DE Ezekiel Ansah (concussion) did not practice. S Louis Delmas (knee) was limited.
The Vikings signed RB Bradley Randle to the practice squad released RB Joe Banyard. Why that move now? Randle, at 5-foot-7, 193 pounds, can act as Reggie Bush on the scout team as the Vikings prepare for the Detroit Lions. Randle confirmed that would be his role this week.
In addition to Kevin Williams, third-string quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson wasn’t at the start of Wednesday’s practice.
Former Vikings receiver Percy Harvin, traded to the Seahawks earlier this year, tweeted on Wednesday that he could be back for Seattle’s game in Week 7, the earliest possible return for a player on the physically able to perform list. Harvin was placed on the PUP list after having hip surgery.
“I talked to him earlier. He’s doing pretty good, just rehabbing and ready to get back out there,” said Sanford, who was also good friends with Harvin during their days together in Minnesota. “I don’t know how the recovering is coming. I don’t know about Week 7 or not, but I’m pretty sure he knows his body better than anybody.”
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.