What's Bothering Winfield?

The answer to the headline question is that nobody in the media knows for sure what's got Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield staying away from voluntary camps he regularly attended in the past. It could be his contract or his discontent with the team, but he and his agent aren't exactly clearing the air.

Antoine Winfield was a no-show at the Vikings' first round of Organized Team Activities this off-season. So what's bothering the veteran cornerback? At this point, he isn't saying.

Winfield isn't returning phone calls and the only public comments by agent Richard Katz didn't exactly clear things up. Katz told the NFL's website that Winfield would report for the Vikings' mandatory minicamp June 1-3 but said, "I can't comment" on whether Winfield would attend training camp.

Katz refused to elaborate on the reasons why Winfield has stayed away from the Vikings' Winter Park facility this spring.

"(Winfield) hasn't been here in the offseason program," coach Brad Childress said Tuesday after the initial OTA workout. "That's a guy's prerogative. ... This is the time of year when you get a chance to enhance the foundation that you laid last year, and see what we've added. I think it's an important time to spend with your teammates and coaches. Our players know how important this time of year is."

One school of thought is that Winfield is unhappy with the $35 million six-year free-agent contract he signed before the 2004 season. The deal included $10.8 million in guarantees.

While it looked good at the time, Winfield's deal was bypassed in a big way by his former Ohio State and Buffalo Bills teammate, Nate Clements. Clements received an eight-year, $80 million deal that includes $22 million in guaranteed money from the San Francisco 49ers this offseason.

Another school of thought is that Winfield isn't happy with the Vikings' direction after having been with a team that has missed the postseason in two of his three seasons. Childress said that Winfield has not requested a trade.

In fact, Winfield has told various teammates, including safety Darren Sharper, that he wants to stay in Minnesota. "The thing about this camp is that it's not mandatory," Sharper said. "You can't really look down on a guy if he's not here. You always like to have your guys here, but one thing we know about Antoine is that when it comes to Sundays, he's probably our best player here. We know we can count on him."

NOTES

  • S Mike Doss, whose season ended last October when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee while playing for Indianapolis, took part in the OTAs. Other players coming off knee injuries who participated included fellow safety Tank Williams (fractured left kneecap) and linebackers Jason Glenn and Chad Greenway (ACLs). Defensive end Erasmus James was the only player to miss the OTAs because of injury.

  • LB Chad Greenway is playing with the first-team defense at weakside linebacker. E.J. Henderson has moved to the middle to replace Napoleon Harris, who signed as a free agent with the Kansas City Chiefs in March.

  • With Antoine Winfield absent, Dovonte Edwards worked with the first-team defense at left cornerback across from Cedric Griffin. Edwards missed all of last season after breaking his arm in the exhibition finale at Dallas.

  • Pro Bowl guard Steve Hutchinson had an excused absence for the first two days of OTAs to attend a charity golf tournament.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I've caught 13,000 balls in the three months since I've been back from Nike. (Receivers coach George Stewart) keeps track of all that stuff, and the other day he asked me how many balls I thought I had caught since Nike. I was going to say about 1,500. But it was 13,000. That's a lot. But I'm a professional. I want to conduct myself as a professional by taking this thing seriously." — Vikings receiver Troy Williamson, who spent two days being evaluated by a Nike vision consultant and found his right eye is weaker than his left.

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