Wiederer: Winfield surprised to learn of his release

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER
  • Updated: March 13, 2013 - 11:45 AM

The cornerback was let go and didn’t seem to expect he would be brought back at a cheaper price.

In the middle of a hectic Tuesday, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman came down from his Winter Park office and marched to a podium to debrief the media on a week that already had been wild and was only growing busier.

Yes, Spielman had clearance to officially announce the Percy Harvin trade. But that was Monday’s news, ancient history in a league where the news cycle spins faster than a super-tornado.

And sure, the Vikings’ ability to re-sign right tackle Phil Loadholt minutes before free agency opened Tuesday provided a major boost to the offense.

But unquestionably, the biggest news surrounded the release of cornerback Antoine Winfield, a surprising move that left one of the most respected players in the organization feeling confused and disappointed.

The transaction itself, with Winfield due $7.25 million in 2013, wasn’t a total shock. The Vikings saw that as too much to invest in a soon-to-be 36-year-old cornerback. And creating additional salary cap room might have allowed the organization to better work their plans for re-signing players and exploring the rest of the free agent market.

But, according to an NFL source, the way Winfield’s dismissal unfolded proved incredibly awkward. Cold even. And those are the nice ways of putting it.

Winfield was at Winter Park on Tuesday routinely working out. Approximately an hour before the NFL’s free-agency period opened at 3 p.m., he was summoned upstairs and told he had been cut.

The discussion was brief and unceremonious, the kind of sobering transaction players always are bracing for but never ready for.

“It was a business decision as we move forward,” Spielman explained later.

But then the Vikings GM hinted he wanted to “keep the door open on [Winfield’s] possible return.” And he echoed that sentiment six times during a 15-minute presser.

Yet that “door could still be open” rhetoric felt like a hollow formality to Winfield and his agent, neither of whom had received any contingency plans when communicating with the team 90 minutes earlier.

They were simply led to believe this was likely the end — harsh but necessary.

Winfield, the source said, initially felt confused and blindsided, never led to believe this might be a possibility, without negotiation, in the 11th hour before free agency. The 87-hour window that agents for free agents had for negotiating had passed. Winfield was suddenly out of a job and also playing from way behind in finding a new team.

After nine years in the organization, the cornerback believed he deserved better, that he was owed more. On top of that, the source said, contrary to other published reports, the Vikings never had formally proposed a possible restructuring of Winfield’s contract as a means of keeping him.

And while that wasn’t a pitch the cornerback’s camp had been willing to entertain, the proposal should have been made if the Vikings seriously were entertaining having Winfield back.

Spielman said Tuesday he had “a very good conversation” with Winfield and classified the move to release him as “extremely, extremely difficult.”

What remains to be seen is what the ripple effect will be, both on the depth chart and in the locker room. At present, the Vikings’ cornerback unit is now headlined by Chris Cook with Josh Robinson, A.J. Jefferson, Brandon Burton, Marcus Sherels and Bobby Felder also in the mix.

More so, player reaction likely won’t be favorable after the release of a player as adored as Winfield. This wasn’t any old way-past-his-prime veteran. This was Winfield, the guy who had logged nine seasons with the Vikings, consistently wowing those around him with his unique combination of toughness and intelligence. This was the charismatic leader beloved by the coaching staff. The guy, who in his 14th season epitomized the Vikings’ 2012 resurgence, delivering wonderful production while galvanizing the young secondary around him.

Even his play last season was youthful: 110 tackles, 11 for loss, three interceptions, a fumble recovery and 13 passes defended.

He played through pain — emotionally, when his younger brother was murdered in early September and physically when he played the regular season finale and playoff game with a fractured right hand.

By late Tuesday, at least a half-dozen surprised teams had inquired about potentially signing Winfield. The Vikings insist they are leaving their doors open if nothing works out.

But at this point, the source said, Winfield views that rhetoric simply as a way of politely kicking him out the door. It’s far from the exit he envisioned.

He still plans to play in 2013. But as of now it might well be somewhere else.

 

Dan Wiederer • dan.wiederer@startribune.com

  • related content

  • Video: Vikings release Winfield

    Wednesday March 13, 2013

    Vikings general manager Rick Spielman announced the team's decision to release cornerback Antoine Winfield.

  • Vikings notes: Loadholt's return keeps offensive line intact

    Wednesday March 13, 2013

    Reaching a multiyear deal with starting right tackle Phil Loadholt on Tuesday solidified a promising young offensive line for years to come.

  • Antoine Winfield (26) sacked Matt Schaub (8) in the second quarter. Mi...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Minnesota 35 4th Qtr 0:44
Miami 35
Baltimore 13 4th Qtr 2:00
Houston 25
Detroit 20 FINAL
Chicago 14
Cleveland 13 FINAL
Carolina 17
Atlanta 30 FINAL
New Orleans 14
Green Bay 20 FINAL
Tampa Bay 3
Kansas City 12 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
New England 17 FINAL
NY Jets 16
NY Giants 10 1st Qtr 4:52
St. Louis 3
Buffalo 0 1st Qtr 14:14
Oakland 0
Indianapolis 0 1st Qtr 12:35
Dallas 0
Seattle 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
New York 41 2nd Qtr 3:37
Toronto 54
Memphis 3:30 PM
Cleveland
Boston 5:00 PM
Miami
Detroit 5:00 PM
Brooklyn
LA Lakers 5:00 PM
Sacramento
Philadelphia 5:00 PM
Orlando
Phoenix 5:00 PM
Washington
Indiana 6:00 PM
Minnesota
New Orleans 6:00 PM
Oklahoma City
Colorado 5:00 PM
Detroit
Dallas 5:00 PM
Edmonton
Buffalo 6:00 PM
Boston
Carolina 6:00 PM
NY Rangers
Toronto 6:00 PM
Chicago
Philadelphia 8:00 PM
Winnipeg
Harvard 27 FINAL
Virginia 76
Maine 69 FINAL
Army 72
Ferris State 82 FINAL
Bowling Green 68
San Francisco 65 FINAL
Cleveland State 69
Oregon State 52 FINAL
Quinnipiac 60
Coastal Carolina 72 FINAL
Central Arkansas 55
Holy Cross 48 FINAL
Canisius 67
Southern Miss 55 FINAL
Georgia State 68
Western Carolina 66 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 62
Creighton 58 FINAL
North Texas 62
Maryland 73 FINAL
Oklahoma State 64
Cornell 61 FINAL
Radford 74
Vermont 55 FINAL
Saint Louis 58
Loyola-Maryland 52 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Reinhardt 72 FINAL
Winthrop 100
Ark-Little Rock 46 FINAL
Green Bay 66
TX-Pan American 72 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 77
Alabama State 63 FINAL
Evansville 81
FIU 69 FINAL
Hartford 82
Goshen 55 FINAL
Valparaiso 82
Bryant 33 2nd Half 8:56
Denver 31
Austin Peay 40 2nd Half 12:04
Lipscomb 46
Tennessee St 31 2nd Half 15:00
Middle Tennessee 44
South Dakota 44 2nd Half 8:37
Montana 52
ULM 30 2nd Half 17:20
Samford 37
Coker 23 2nd Half
South Carolina 35
USC 20 1st Half 9:47
Boston College 21
Northern Ariz 14 1st Half 7:39
Hampton 19
SD Christian 8 1st Half 8:30
San Diego 26
UC Irvine 3:30 PM
Bradley
Troy 3:30 PM
Nicholls
Seton Hall 5:00 PM
Georgia
Appalachian St 5:30 PM
Alabama
North Dakota St 6:00 PM
Kent State
San Jose St 6:00 PM
Washington St
Alcorn State 8:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Sacramento St 9:00 PM
Seattle
Nevada 3 FINAL
Louisiana 16
Utah State 21 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 6
(23) Utah 45 FINAL
Colorado State 10
Western Mich 24 FINAL
Air Force 38
South Alabama 28 FINAL
Bowling Green 33
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 3:00 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Cal-Irvine 55 FINAL
Denver 63
St Marys-CA 52 FINAL
George Washington 70
TX-San Antonio 49 FINAL
Nicholls 57
Portland State 71 FINAL
Columbia 66
Tenn Tech 62 FINAL
Morgan State 56
SMU 43 FINAL
Auburn 56
Quinnipiac 70 FINAL
Hartford 58
Hofstra 75 FINAL
Boston College 61
Eastern Washington 55 FINAL
Georgia Southern 42
Liberty 44 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 84
Fairleigh Dickinson 74 FINAL
Brown 79
Buffalo 73 FINAL
Long Island 79
Bucknell 74 FINAL
Mount St Marys 49
Stony Brook 70 FINAL
Wagner 76
FIU 83 FINAL
Wofford 75
Duquesne 56 FINAL
Providence 67
Maine 54 FINAL
William & Mary 51
Alabama State 43 FINAL
Samford 56
TX-Pan American 43 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 64
South Dakota St 64 FINAL
Marist 82
Saint Josephs 50 FINAL
(5) Notre Dame 64
Radford 60 FINAL
Virginia Tech 73
(3) Texas 67 FINAL
(4) Texas A&M 65
Rhode Island 60 FINAL
Bryant 56
South Florida 90 FINAL
Penn State 87
Sam Houston St 55 FINAL
TCU 79
Evansville 50 FINAL
IUPUI 62
(14) Maryland 110 FINAL
Coppin State 51
Mercer 59 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 72
NC A&T 43 FINAL
Chattanooga 58
Princeton 84 FINAL
Monmouth 53
Eastern Illinois 69 FINAL
Lehigh 72
Rider 67 FINAL
Binghamton 72
SC State 57 FINAL
Clemson 66
Fairfield 63 FINAL
Iowa State 76
Richmond 70 FINAL
Eastern Kentucky 56
Cleveland State 80 FINAL
Morehead St 72
Kent State 62 FINAL
Colgate 61
South Alabama 43 FINAL
UAB 73
Saint Peters 35 FINAL
Navy 71
Youngstown St 52 FINAL
Pittsburgh 78
NJIT 50 FINAL
Lafayette 66
Davidson 51 FINAL
Charlotte 86
Wright State 46 FINAL
Purdue 70
Indiana State 56 2nd Half 0:22
St Johns 56
Southern U 44 2nd Half 2:56
Florida 74
(19) Oklahoma St 48 2nd Half 10:01
USC 42
Houston 36 2nd Half 9:06
Texas Tech 42
Ark-Little Rock 48 2nd Half 9:11
Tulsa 40
Dayton 51 2nd Half 8:17
Vanderbilt 49
Northern Ariz 21 2nd Half 7:29
New Mexico 40
UNC-Asheville 46 2nd Half 9:43
USC Upstate 50
North Dakota 56 2nd Half 13:54
South Dakota 55
Western Ill 44 2nd Half 11:51
Marquette 41
Elon 53 2nd Half 11:03
(6) North Carolina 71
Ball State 43 2nd Half 10:32
Western Ky 63
(8) Kentucky 39 2nd Half 14:22
(13) Duke 58
New Orleans 33 2nd Half 12:38
Alabama 67
Chicago State 35 2nd Half 7:12
Milwaukee 59
Bowling Green 54 2nd Half 10:26
Bradley 34
Ill-Springfield 40 2nd Half 14:00
SE Missouri St 52
Northern Ill 36 2nd Half 7:47
Northern Iowa 44
(23) Iowa 68 2nd Half 12:07
Drake 65
Central Michigan 38 2nd Half
Minnesota 36
Western Carolina 23 2nd Half 16:52
North Florida 31
Wyoming 17 1st Half 10:59
Colorado 17
Portland 22 1st Half 7:50
Boise State 24
Cal Poly 26 1st Half 6:15
Colorado State 22
No Dakota State 10 1st Half 9:15
Grand Canyon 22
Albany 24 1st Half 8:39
Cal State Fullerton 12
Oklahoma 6 1st Half 16:02
Arkansas 4
Idaho State 13 1st Half 11:26
Seattle 11
(18) Michigan State 27 1st Half 5:52
(19) Syracuse 24
Northwestern 3:30 PM
Arizona State
TX-Arlington 3:30 PM
North Texas
Fresno State 4:00 PM
Oregon
St Francis-PA 4:00 PM
Coastal Carolina
UNLV 4:00 PM
CS-Bakersfield
UCLA 4:00 PM
(2) Connecticut
(10) Louisville 4:00 PM
(24) California
Howard 5:00 PM
Virginia
Miami-Ohio 6:00 PM
(21) Miss State
Illinois-Chicago 8:30 PM
Old Dominion
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Grade the Vikings offense

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close