Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Posts about Antoine Winfield

Vikings sign DE Lawrence Jackson, CB Jacob Lacey

Posted by: Updated: April 30, 2013 - 8:49 AM

Defensive end Lawrence Jackson and cornerback Jacob Lacey are now officially Minnesota Vikings. The team announced the signing of both veterans Monday morning, adding additional depth and reinforcement to their defense.

Jackson agreed to his contract with the Vikings in the middle of last week with the deal finalized today. He comes to the Twin Cities following a three-year stop in Detroit, where he played 37 games as a back-up end. Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman had familiarity with Jackson from within the division and saw an opportunity to find another pass-rushing option as the Vikings head into the 2013 season with the team's top three ends -- Jared Allen, Brian Robison and Everson Griffen -- all in the final year of their contracts.

Spielman said on Friday that Jackson was given a one-year deal, which has been the organization's m.o. the past two offseasons with many of their second-tier free agent signings. That gives the Vikings a low-risk opportunity to look at Jackson as a pass rusher in 2013 as they then begin to decide what to do up front going forward with so much uncertainty surrounding the futures of Allen, Griffen and Robison.

Jackson, originally a first-round pick by Seattle in 2008, made 24 starts in his first two NFL seasons with the Seahawks. He has 19.5 career sacks to go along with 141 tackles. He was traded to Detroit in the summer of 2010 in exchange for a sixth-round draft pick.

Lacey, meanwhile, also arrives from Detroit where he made nine starts last season, recording 36 tackles and a Week 11 interception of Aaron Rodgers.

Lacey began his career in Indianapolis, signed by the Colts as an undrafted free agent following the 2009 draft. He spent three years there working with secondary coach Alan Williams, who is now entering his second season as the Vikings defensive coordinator.

As we noted this morning, the Vikings have been searching for solutions at slot corner since releasing Antoine Winfield last month and failing to re-sign him. Lacey may now find his opening to make a bid for that role.

Etc.

-- The Vikings released punter T.J. Conley on Monday afternoon, two days after drafting left-footed punter Jeff Locke out of UCLA. Conley was signed in January as a street free agent. He was with the Jets in 2011 but cut before the start of last season and was out of the NFL during the 2012 season.

With Locke selected in the fifth round Saturday, veteran Chris Kluwe is widely figured to be on the ropes as the Vikings eye a new direction at the position.

Vikings schedule set, with three prime-time games

Posted by: Updated: April 18, 2013 - 9:06 PM
The Vikings are back in prime-time.
 
After playing only one regular season night game in 2012 – a mandatory Thursday nighter – the team is again registering as a strong draw for the under-the-lights TV slots. Last season’s surprising 10-6 surge into the playoffs and the presence of MVP Adrian Peterson helps. And with the full NFL schedule released Tuesday evening, the Vikings have been slotted to play three night games in a span of 18 days during the middle of the season. They’ll have an appearance on Monday Night Football (at the New York Giants in Week 7); a Sunday nighter (home vs. Green Bay in Week 8); and a Thursday night cameo against the Redskins at Mall of America Field in Week 10.
 
So just how does the 2013 campaign set up overall? Here’s your quick look at what’s ahead …
 
WEEK 1
Sunday, Sept. 8
at Detroit, Noon (FOX, KFAN)
Highlight reel potential. Set the DVR. The NFL’s reigning rushing champ (Adrian Peterson) against the league’s current receiving king (Calvin Johnson).
 
WEEK 2
Sunday, Sept. 15
at Chicago, Noon (FOX, KFAN)
The quest to halt the Soldier Field slump continues. The Vikings are 1-10 there since 2000 and have lost their past three in the Windy City by a combined 61 points.
 
WEEK 3
Sunday, Sept. 22
vs. Cleveland, Noon (CBS, KFAN)
A later-than-usual home opener appears favorable against the Browns, who have finished above .500 just twice in the 21st century.
 
WEEK 4
Sunday, Sept. 29
vs. Pittsburgh (in London), Noon (CBS, KFAN)
For fans and the media, this may be the most appealing road getaway of the year. For the Vikings, it’s a critical business trip with more attention devoted to Big Ben the quarterback than Big Ben the clock.
 
WEEK 5
BYE WEEK
In conjunction with the trip overseas, this will be an early week off just a quarter of the way into the season. Will it mark a good regrouping point or come too soon?
 
WEEK 6
Sunday, Oct. 13
vs. Carolina, Noon (FOX, KFAN)
The Vikings bested Cam Newton during his rookie year but will have to be sharp again defensively to repeat that result. The Panthers, like the Vikings, rallied to win their final four regular season games last year.
 
WEEK 7
Monday, Oct. 21
at New York Giants, 7:40 p.m. (ESPN, KFAN)
Two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning will play the role of host on the Vikings’ return to Monday Night Football.
 
WEEK 8
Sunday, Oct. 27
vs. Green Bay, 7:30 p.m. (NBC, KFAN)
We can only hope for a game as entertaining as the 2012 season finale when Peterson and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers put on quite the show during the Vikings’ 37-34 playoff-clinching win.
 
WEEK 9
Sunday, Nov. 3
at Dallas, Noon (FOX, KFAN)
A field trip to Jerry World should be a fun way to conclude the season’s first half. The Vikings have won the last two meetings against the Cowboys, including a 34-3 blowout in the 2009 playoffs.
 
WEEK 10
Thursday, Nov. 7
vs. Washington, 7:25 p.m. (NFLN, KFAN)
The Vikings may still be having nightmares over the game-sealing 76-yard touchdown run Robert Griffin III delivered last October. RG3’s recovery from major knee surgery will be worth monitoring in the lead up to this game.
 
WEEK 11
Sunday, Nov. 17
at Seattle, 3:25 p.m. (FOX, KFAN)
Should be a warm and fuzzy reunion with receiver Percy Harvin and cornerback Antoine Winfield, no? The former Vikings have joined a loaded Seahawks team with its eyes on the Super Bowl.
 
WEEK 12
Sunday, Nov. 24
at Green Bay, Noon (FOX, KFAN)
Christian Ponder’s Lambeau Field history: two starts, 28-for-59, 309 yards, one TD, three interceptions. In losses by a combined 68-21 count. Then came a DNP in a playoff game due to a severely bruised triceps.
 
WEEK 13
Sunday, Dec. 1
vs. Chicago, Noon (FOX, KFAN)
New Bears coach Marc Trestman (a St. Louis Park native) comes back to the Twin Cities. Trestman’s offensive intelligence is supposed to energize an attack led by Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte. By this point, we’ll know whether the anticipation was justified.
 
WEEK 14
Sunday, Dec. 8
at Baltimore, Noon (FOX, KFAN)
The Ravens lost a ton of key cogs from last year’s Super Bowl run, most notably Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Anquan Boldin, Matt Birk and Paul Kruger. They still, however, have the league’s highest paid man in QB Joe Flacco.
 
WEEK 15
Sunday, Dec. 15
vs. Philadelphia, Noon (FOX, KFAN)
No one knows quite what to expect from the union of Eagles coach Chip Kelly and quarterback Michael Vick. If things click, the Philly offense – which also features LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson – could be scary.
 
WEEK 16
Sunday, Dec. 22
at Cincinnati, Noon (FOX, KFAN)
Expect something lopsided. These teams’ past three meetings have been decided by an average of 23 points. The Vikings last trip to Cinci was a 37-8 loss in 2005 during which they were torched by Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson.
 
WEEK 17
Sunday, Dec. 29
vs. Detroit, Noon (FOX, KFAN)
In what could be the final game ever at Mall of America Field, the Vikings and Lions reunite 112 days after their first meeting.
 
FINAL THOUGHTS
  • The Vikings hit the skids last November, dropping three of four in a disconcerting slide that raised anxiety levels. This November seems equally imposing with road trips to Dallas, Seattle and Green Bay and the lone home game coming on Thursday night against the Redskins, the reigning champs of the NFC East.
  • The Vikings don’t face a team that made the 2012 playoffs until Oct. 27. That should provide an opening for another fast start.
  • The season’s tone may be set right out of the gates with back-to-back division games on the road. The Vikings took care of business in the NFC North last season, posting a 4-2 mark. They also regrouped late last season to salvage a 3-5 road record. Finding a way to stand strong against division rivals in Weeks 1 and 2 will be a must for a team looking to replicate last season’s superb September.
  • Starting with the return to Monday Night Football in Week 7, the Vikings will have three night games in a span of 18 days. They will also begin a critical stretch there of playing four out of six games on the road.
  • For the third straight year, the regular season finale comes at Mall of America Field. In 2011, that contest was meaningless. Last year, it meant everything. What will the ramifications be this time around, especially for a contest that could well be the Vikings’ last ever at the Metrodome?

Antoine Winfield chooses Seahawks

Posted by: Updated: April 12, 2013 - 10:51 PM
The Vikings’ hopes of reeling Antoine Winfield back to Winter Park have officially been dashed. The 35-year-old cornerback agreed to a one-year deal with the Seahawks on Friday, ending his month-long exploration through free agency.
Winfield began a visit in Seattle on Tuesday and apparently liked what he heard from General Manager John Schneider, coach Pete Carroll and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. But it was not an easy decision. The Vikings had made a significant push to bring Winfield back and it took until Friday for a deal to be finalized with the Seahawks.
"It was a very tough decision for me because of the relationships that I have in Minnesota," Winfield told ESPN's Josina Anderson. "I've been there nine years. I've had some really great coaches, teammates and fans there. I'm very grateful to the Vikings organization for my experience."
Winfield had made it known since being released by the Vikings on March 12 that he was looking to find an ideal fit and latch on with a team in position to contend for a Super Bowl. Seattle certainly fits that bill.
The Seahawks already have two outstanding outside cornerbacks in Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner. Now they can add Winfield to the mix as a slot corner and veteran leader.
After nine seasons with the Vikings, Winfield joins a Seattle team that was an eyelash away from reaching the NFC Championship last season and has since added some big-name talent in its quest to take the next step. The Seahawks acquired receiver Percy Harvin in a blockbuster trade last month and then struck two days later by signing free agent defensive end Cliff Avril
The Seattle defense ranked second in the NFL against the pass in 2012 and will hope Winfield still has some juice left as he enters his 15th season. Winfield was as reliable as ever last season with the Vikings, steadying a young secondary. According to team stats, he contributed 110 tackles, 11 of those for loss and intercepted three passes. His professionalism and positive energy were frequently lauded by both teammates and the Vikings’ coaching staff during the team’s surprising push into the NFC playoffs.
As head coach Leslie Frazier noted last month: "He was the glue. The way that he was in our meeting rooms, at practice, his participation in the offseason program. He was one of those guys who had not been around a lot in the offseason [previously]. And he was at everything a year ago. So his influence, you can't put a dollar figure on that. It made a big difference on our season and in the development of a lot of players as well."
Still, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman made the executive decision to cut Winfield last month in the hour before free agency began, needing to clear salary cap room that the cornerback’s $7.25 million salary for 2013 was clogging up.
The Vikings then spent the first week of free agency re-signing seven of their in-house free agents, most notably right tackle Phil Loadholt, fullback Jerome Felton and linebacker Erin Henderson. The organization also signed receiver Greg Jennings and quarterback Matt Cassel.
According to a source, before being cut Winfield was never formally offered an opportunity to restructure his contract and initially felt blindsided by the Vikings’ decision, news given to him on a day he had gone to the team’s Winter Park facility for a routine workout.
A few hours after releasing Winfield, Spielman said he was leaving the door open for a possible reunion. And Leslie Frazier reached out to Winfield on several occasions to express his feelings and appreciation for Winfield’s talent and leadership.
But the veteran cornerback was certainly confused by the mixed messages from an organization that didn’t feel he was worth keeping around at a high price but was still asking him to consider a return shortly after.  
Winfield began testing the open market when free agency began and had one other visit with the Redskins. In Seattle, it turns out, he found the fit he was seeking. ESPN reported Winfield’s deal with Seattle to be worth $3 million. And at the very least, Winfield’s move slammed shut the door Spielman had promised to keep open.

Where are they now? Antoine Winfield, Adrian Peterson, Chad Greenway edition

Posted by: Updated: April 9, 2013 - 1:48 PM
Where are they now? Isn’t that a segment usually reserved for retired players, making their way through life 10, 15, 20 years after they’ve finished competing on the football field?
Well today we’re talking “Where are they now?” in regards to Antoine Winfield, Adrian Peterson and Chad Greenway. Like where are they right now?
Winfield? He’s in Seattle, engaging in a free agent visit today with the Seahawks. This comes two weeks after he enjoyed a similar visit with the Redskins and four weeks after he hit the open market upon being released by the Vikings in the hour before free agency began.
There’s not a ton new to report here other than the visit to Seattle itself. Whether Winfield finds the right fit with the Seahawks remains to be seen. In one way or another, it’d be a surprise if Winfield’s decision – one way or another – isn’t finalized by week’s end. But that he still hasn’t signed anywhere should leave the Vikings feeling at least somewhat encouraged that the 35-year-old cornerback may find his way back to Winter Park before this all said and done.
Winfield’s biggest priority in choosing where to play in 2013 revolves around finding a team that’s not only interested in him but also in position to contend for a championship. The cornerback isn’t solely interested in identifying the highest bidder. Though, at this point, the auction isn’t exactly escalating.
The Vikings move to cut Winfield was a salary dump, in order to wipe his $7.25 million salary for 2013 off the books. It was a move General Manager Rick Spielman deemed necessary to plunge into free agency the way he felt he needed to. The Vikings subsequently signed receiver Greg Jennings and Matt Cassel and worked to re-sign seven of their in-house free agents as well.
And since releasing Winfield, the Vikings have made it clear they’d be interested in a reunion if things were to ultimately lead that way. Coach Leslie Frazier has been Winfield’s most vocal supporter, in contact with the cornerback himself and making it clear that he’d be wanted and appreciated if he came back.
Last month at the NFL’s annual meetings in Phoenix, Frazier acknowledged Winfield's importance to the defense and the team's overall resurgence in 2012.
“He was the glue,” Frazier said. “The way that he was in our meeting rooms, at practice, his participation in the offseason program. He was one of those guys who had not been around a lot in the offseason. And he was at everything a year ago. So his influence, you can’t put a dollar figure on that. It made a big difference on our season and in the development of a lot of players as well.”
But for Winfield, it’s a tad more complicated than hearing such praise and running right back into the Vikings' arms. Being released as a cash casualty last month stung and made him feel unwanted, especially when that move came after he delivered one of his more brilliant seasons in 2012. He not only delivered 83 tackles, 11 for loss and three interceptions, he was an established and respected leader of a very young secondary.
Now he’s trying to determine what’s next and today’s stop through Seattle should provide a few more answers.
Only 180 miles away, Vikings Pro Bowlers Adrian Peterson and Chad Greenway are in Beaverton, Ore., at Nike headquarters today getting a sneak peek at the team’s new uniforms.
Yep, new unis. Fresh. Clean. Expected to have a bit of a retro feel to them.
But for those hoping that the visit by Peterson and Greenway will lead to a grand unveiling of the new attire soon, don’t hold your breath. The Vikings and Nike have opted to slow play the uniform reveal and the designs won’t officially be unveiled until April 25, the first night of the draft. The place for clues on the new uniforms: VikingsUniformInsider.com.
In a quote released by the Vikings on Twitter, Peterson said today, “From the helmet to the jersey to the pants, the guys are going to love it.” That’s the endorsement from the league MVP.
Stay tuned …

Vikings still waiting to hear back on possible reunion with Antoine Winfield

Posted by: Updated: March 20, 2013 - 3:05 PM

The ball is back in Antoine Winfield’s court now. The Vikings have made it clear to the veteran cornerback that they’d love to have him back for 2013, even after releasing him in the hour before free agency began last week.

But now Winfield has to decide whether that reunion is something he is truly up for and will be worth it with whatever the Vikings feel they can afford to lure him back.

On the one hand, you’d think the tough-minded cornerback might be magnetized back to the franchise where he has shown his talents since 2004. The prospect of starting over, in a new city with a new team within a new defense, has to be somewhat daunting for a guy in the stretch run of his career.

But on the flip side, interest from other teams has been brewing. And given Winfield’s incredible productivity last season, he’s probably worth more than the Vikings can afford to pay him next season.

Consider this a battle between familiarity and true value.

And in his most recent conversation with Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, Winfield expressed at least some appreciation that the door to Winter Park has not been slammed shut – even if the Vikings’ vision would be to use him exclusively as a nickel corner going forward.

“He made me believe that there was a possibility that things could be worked out here, that he would be back in Minnesota,” Frazier said on the final day of the NFL’s annual meetings Wednesday. “I do know there are other teams calling and seeing what his interest is in continuing to play. And he does want to continue to play. But he gave me the impression that he’d like to be able to be back here in Minnesota. Now it’s just a matter of can we work things out financially to his liking as well as our team’s liking.”

By all accounts, Winfield handled his surprise release last week with professionalism. Sure, Winfield was blindsided by the timing. And initially, he was stunned by how abrupt his nine seasons as a Vikings came to an end. But having been in the league since 1999, Winfield understood no player is ever safe from getting axed.

At times, roster reshuffling and contractual analysis turn an incredibly emotional sport into a cold business process. And with the Vikings needing extra piles of cash to push through the first week of free agency, Winfield’s $7.25 million salary was seen as a major obstacle to the organization, which later needed the salary cap space to deliver hefty contracts to receiver Greg Jennings, right tackle Phil Loadholt, quarterback Matt Cassel and fullback Jerome Felton.

But inevitably, there are also complications to that approach. Winfield, after all, is more than just a salary figure. He is a leader around whom the Vikings’ young secondary rallied last year. He set an example on how to prepare. He used 14 years of NFL experience to teach his younger teammates. He was consistently a blast of positive energy throughout a season in which the Vikings surged to 10 wins against all odds.

“He was the glue,” Frazier said. “The way that he was in our meeting rooms, at practice, his participation in the offseason program. He was one of those guys who had not been around a lot in the offseason. And he was at everything a year ago. So his influence, you can’t put a dollar figure on that. It made a big difference on our season and in the development of a lot of players as well.”

Yet now, the Vikings will have to put a dollar figure on all that if they’re to realize any hopes of keeping Winfield in Minnesota.

“That’s the business part of our business,” Frazier said. “He understands it. … Now it’s just a matter of can the numbers work?”

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT