Sid Hartman: All is well now with Vikings, Winfield

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 19, 2007 - 12:10 AM

The cornerback and coach Brad Childress had some communication problems last season but say they ironed things out and are on the same page now.

Antoine Winfield, who skipped some of the Vikings' early minicamps, had another good face-to-face meeting Wednesday with coach Brad Childress and said he is excited about starting training camp.

Childress admits he could have had better communication with his players during his first season, and that includes Winfield.

This isn't anything unusual. Players and coaches routinely have problems communicating, but the press made it into a big deal.

"We all do," Winfield said about the player-coach communication problems. "It was his [Childress] first year as a head coach, our first year under him. So, there were some things that we all needed to iron out.

"I think we've done that. He seems more laid-back now. You know when you first come in, you want to be that dictator and put your foot down, put your stamp on your legacy, and I think he's done that. So we've all got a year under our belt. Hopefully we'll improve this year."

Winfield said he didn't miss the minicamps because of any communication issues.

"Oh, no, it was nothing like that," he said. "It was just, I'm going through my ninth year, you know everyone made a big deal of me not being here, and working out with the team and stuff like that. But it wasn't about me being selfish or anything like that. I kind of know my body. I know what I need to do to get ready and I'm definitely ready."

There was speculation Winfield wasn't happy with his contract, especially after former Patriots cornerback Nate Clements signed a huge contract with the 49ers.

"Everyone wanted to make a big deal like I was upset about my contract, or it had something to do with me and coach Childress getting along. It was nothing like that. I just had to get away and just take care of the things at home."

Winfield does realize the market price for cornerbacks has gone up since he signed his contract.

"Oh, of course. I mean when I signed it, it was a great deal," he said. "But, of course, you know the money's going to go up every year. Who knows, in another three years Nate's contract might not look like that. Now you have DeAngelo Hall, Asante Samuel, a few guys coming up. So, it's not about the money. I love playing this game. I played it for free for a long time."

Asked if the Vikings can contend for the division title, Winfield said, "I think so. You know if we improve on a lot of things we didn't do last year. Get a lot more turnovers, not give up big plays on the back end, create turnovers to put our offense in a lot better positions."

Garza changed

After Matt Garza was sent down to Class AAA Rochester after spring training, the issue was raised that the righthander was not using all of his pitches. The so-called discussion got some pretty good print.

Twins General Manager Terry Ryan looked back at it and said, "Somebody was trying to make something out of it, that there was more to it. There's nothing wrong with a little jargon going back and forth on exactly how you're going about your business, that's what youth's all about, and that's why people are in the minor leagues to figure out exactly how to get people out. I didn't take that as anything serious. We've had that before and we'll have it again."

Well, Garza started to listen to Rochester pitching coach Stu Cliburn and also to Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson, and the result has been two great starts against the White Sox and the Tigers.

"He had some difficult outings down there, which I think helps," Ryan said. "You've got to make adjustments almost every time you go out there, and obviously he's got an impressive fastball. There's no doubt about that. In the minor leagues, many times you can get away with that, and for him to be a big-time pitcher at this level, I think the breaking ball and his changeup will certainly separate him."

Ryan said if a pitcher has enough talent he can get by with just a fastball in the minor leagues.

Garza threw a lot of good breaking balls and changeups against the White Sox and the Tigers, and as a result, the "new" Garza hasn't given up an earned run in 13 innings while striking out 10.

Sometimes it pays to listen.

Jottings

Before traveling to Minneapolis, the Tigers began a road trip in Seattle that will have them playing 17 of 20 games on the road -- a grueling stretch that could help the Twins move up in the AL Central standings.

Dmitri Young, who is hitting .342 for the Washington Nationals with 52 RBI and nine home runs, has a one-year contract for only $850,000 -- and the switch-hitting All-Star would look good in a Twins uniform. But the word is Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden wants too much in trade for Young and is hard to deal with.

Look for Jacksonville to sign quarterback Daunte Culpepper now that he has been released by Miami. Culpepper's contract called for him to be paid $51.5 million through 2013, and he made it impossible for the Dolphins to trade him because he wouldn't agree to a new contract with any team.

Former Gophers golfer Bronson La'Cassie finished in a tie for 62nd place in his PGA Tour debut last weekend at the John Deere Classic in Silvis, Ill. La'Cassie shot a 3-under-par 281 for 72 holes to earn $8,692.

Former Vikings wide receivers coach Charlie Baggett, who was on Nick Saban's Dolphins staff, is now a wide receivers coach at the University of Washington. ... Curtis Crossley, a former Northern Illinois football player, is serving as an intern in the Vikings scouting department run by Scott Studwell.

Former Twins third baseman Terry Tiffee is playing third for Norfolk of the International League. ... Will Ryan, the oldest son of Wisconsin basketball coach Bo, has been named an assistant coach at North Dakota State.

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