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Antoine Winfield remains an important player on the Vikings defense even in his 14th NFL season.

Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

Vikings' Winfield still worth watching

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER
  • Star Tribune
  • October 20, 2012 - 1:43 AM
Our snapshot look at the Vikings as they prepare for Sunday's game against the Cardinals at Mall of America Field.

 

PLAYER IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Now seems like a good time to shine some spotlight on the Vikings' oldest player, 35-year-old Antoine Winfield, playing with a ton of youthful spirit these days.

Winfield recorded his second interception of the season Sunday in Washington, delivering an impressive break on the ball in coverage against Josh Morgan.

He also continues to lower the boom in run support and has a team-best seven tackles for loss.

No wonder defensive coordinator Alan Williams continues to come away with his eyes bulging as he reviews Winfield's performance.

"Wow," Williams said this week "Capital W, capital O, capital W. Wow. It has a huge impact. That's as good as I've seen anyone play in a long, long time."

It's been well-documented that Winfield's passionate pep talk after a Week 2 loss in Indianapolis refocused and enlivened these Vikings. This week, the 14th-year vet acknowledged that no such sermon was necessary.

But that doesn't diminish how Winfield's focus and dedication are rubbing off on his younger teammates.

"The way he prepares, the way that he practices, the way he goes about his business, you look at him and you say, 'You know what, that's what a professional looks like,' " Williams said.

MOST PRESSING QUESTION

Can the Vikings contain Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald?

Only one receiver all season has topped 75 yards against the Vikings. That was Indianapolis' Donnie Avery, with nine catches for 111 yards in Week 2.

Fitzgerald presents unique challenges and continues to be a consistent force, even within an Arizona offense that has instability everywhere. The biggest key for the Vikings, coach Leslie Frazier said, would be keeping a close eye on Fitzgerald on every play.

"You've got to be careful where you don't ignore him in some situations," Frazier said. "He's the focal point of their offense and one of the key playmakers. So you don't ever want to neglect him."

In five career games against the Vikings, Fitzgerald has averaged seven catches for 108 yards with one touchdown.

KEEP AN EYE ON ...

Patrick Peterson. The second-year cornerback is an emerging star, showing he has shutdown skills on the outside. Peterson has three interceptions already this season.

But if the Vikings aren't careful, Peterson could also affect Sunday's game significantly on special teams. As a rookie, he returned four punts for touchdowns. This season, he's averaging 10.1 yards per return.

Said Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer: "He's big, he's strong, he's fast, quick, elusive. He's got great vision. Everything concerns me about him. Whenever the ball is in his hands, he's a viable threat."

CARDINALS SCOOP

Strong defense, shaky offense. That usually leads to a low-scoring affair. There have been an average of 34.5 points scored by both teams in Arizona's first six games. And only twice have the Cardinals topped 20 points.

John Skelton returns to start at quarterback this week.

With Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams both injured, the running game is in the hands of William Powell and LaRod Stephens-Howling. Most significant, the Cardinals' offensive line has surrendered an NFL-worst 28 sacks, including 22 in the past three weeks.

INJURIES AND FINES

Frazier confirmed Friday that both running back Adrian Peterson and receiver Jerome Simpson are in line to start Sunday. Peterson (probable) missed two practices this week because of a sore left ankle but was a full participant Friday.

Simpson, meanwhile, insists he's past the back and leg issues that hindered him in Week 5 and had him sidelined, per Frazier's decision, last Sunday in Washington.

Other Vikings starters on this week's injury report are Winfield (probable, knee); Christian Ponder (probable, knee); Jared Allen (probable, groin); and Mistral Raymond (out, ankle).

In the fine department, safety Harrison Smith was hit with a $15,750 penalty this week for his horse-collar tackle of Washington's Robert Griffin III last Sunday. Smith received a 15-yard flag for unnecessary roughness on the play.

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