Vikings coach Leslie Frazier didn’t close the door Tuesday on the team possibly re-signing former Pro Bowl cornerback Antoine Winfield to bolster its ailing secondary.
The Vikings rank 32nd — dead last — in the NFL in pass defense and their group of cornerbacks are dealing with injuries and poor play. Their opponents are averaging 326 yards passing per game, and the Vikings are tied for first with 10 touchdown passes allowed.
Winfield, meanwhile, is working out at his home in Houston and wants to continue playing after announcing he would retire following his release from the Seattle Seahawks at the end of training camp.
Frazier didn’t shoot down Winfield’s possible return when asked if the team is considering the idea.
“We’ve talked about a lot of things,” he said. “We knew going in we’d have some new guys playing some positions where there were going to be some growing pains along the way. We’re experiencing some of that. But we’ve got to keep bringing them along and keep hoping that they’re going to improve, which they are. They are improving in some areas. But we’ve talked about a lot of things and ways we can try and help our secondary.”
The Vikings would be a logical destination for Winfield if he does return. He knows the scheme and surroundings so he could slide in with minimal disruption. The secondary certainly could use his playmaking, savvy and leadership right now.
Chris Cook, the presumed No. 1 cornerback, missed Sunday’s game in London because of a groin injury. Frazier said he anticipates Cook returning to practice next week after the bye. But Cook has not shown he can stay healthy.
Josh Robinson, Winfield’s replacement in the slot/nickel role, has struggled through four games. On Sunday, he got beat on a 36-yard catch by Emmanuel Sanders and was called for a 48-yard pass interference penalty on a pass to Antonio Brown.
“He’s had some struggles, in particular inside playing the nickel position,” Frazier said. “That’s been a challenge for him with all the things we ask that position to do. He’s had some good moments. He’s had some moments I’m sure he would look back at … and say, ‘Man, I can do that better,’ and we think he will.”
Faith in Patterson
Rookie Cordarrelle Patterson leads the NFL in kickoff return average at 33.8 yards, ahead of Chicago’s Devin Hester (32.4).
Patterson has a 105-yard return and routinely brings the ball out of the end zone from 8 and 9 yards deep.
“We do have a lot of trust in him for sure,” Frazier said. “We have some parameters on when he can bring it out and when he doesn’t, but it’s not by yards. We think he can return one 109 yards, 108 yards. So we trust his judgment. He’s made good decisions up to this point.”
A week to recover
The bye week comes early in the season, but Frazier decided months ago that he would give his players the entire week off after returning from London.
“When I put the schedule together, I didn’t know what our record would be,” he said. “But as we approached this week and got closer to this bye week, I stayed true to what my original thoughts were. I’m glad I did. I think it’s important that our players get a chance to get away. Take their minds off things a little bit and also get re-engaged from a physical standpoint as well. So I think it’s the right decision.”
Players will return Monday for a light workout and game plan review before beginning full preparations for Carolina next Wednesday.
“The time away, along with the London trip and what we’ve experienced these first four weeks, we felt it was the right decision,” Frazier said. “Time will tell.”
Love returns, is waived
The Vikings waived offensive tackle DeMarcus Love on Tuesday, one day after he was eligible to return from a four-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing substance policy.
Love lost his appeal during training camp. He declined to reveal the banned substance he tested positive for but said it was contained in a supplement. A former sixth-round pick, Love did not appear in a game his first two seasons.
Frazier said the team suffered no new injuries Sunday. He said he anticipates safety Jamarca Sanford (hamstring) will return to practice along with Cook next week.