Rosters across the NFL were finalized this past weekend, as teams were forced to cut players in order to get to the required 53-man limit. In some cases, young players who needed more seasoning were cut, while others were veterans who just couldn't quite compete with the younger players in the league. One such player for the Seattle Seahawks was CB Antoine Winfield, a former Vikings player who was cut as a salary cap casualty by the Vikings this spring. With the Seahawks roster as stacked as it is at cornerback, Winfield was fighting an uphill battle attempting to learn a new offense and compete with younger bodies. It didn't work out for him unfortunately, and he now finds himself without a team.
Instead of trying to catch on to a new team at the beginning of the season, Winfield has since announced his intent to retire. However, there is still one person in the NFL who would welcome Winfield back to their team. That person is Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, who has had nothing but kind words to say of Winfield and his career, as well as one final request.
"I have a ton of respect for Antoine, as you know." Frazier said in a recent interview. "He did a lot of good things for us here, had a great career here in Minnesota and really helped me look good at times with some of the plays he made. I have a deep affection for him. But if he wanted to play, I'd welcome the opportunity to work with Antoine again, if that's what he wanted to do.
"And please, Antoine, if you're listening, you're MORE THAN WELCOME to come back and work with us. I beg you."
Since the Vikings cut Winfield, they have been trying to find his replacement, if not in exact talent level or skill set, than at least as a fresh, talented body that could handle a starting cornerback spot. The team drafted CB Xavier Rhodes in the 2013 NFL Draft, and have taken long looks at younger guys like Josh Robinson, Marcus Sherels, or AJ Jefferson to fill Winfield's spot. But to coach Frazier, it appears obvious what is needed to fill Winfield's spot.
"No doubt, what we've learned is that only Winfield can fill Winfield's spot" he said in a totally exclusive interview with PJD over tin can and wire. "Hey, we're tried to teach these other young guys like Josh Robinson how to do simple things that Winfield excelled at like tackle, or wrap up, or simply be in position, and none of those guys stepped up and mimicked Antoine's ability, even a little bit. So if you're listening, Antoine, hey … You're welcome back anytime. Even tomorrow, if you can make it. Winter Park, 9:00 AM. Please, show up."
Winfield has had a long career, beginning in 1999 with the Buffalo Bills before signing with the Minnesota Vikings as a free agent in 2004. Since then, Winfield has been a starting cornerback that has had a fairly consistent role as a playmaking in the Vikings' defense. Even in 2012, as a 36 year old NFL cornerback, he was by far the best defensive player on the team. Winfield had kept his body in such great shape, that even Coach Frazier felt he could still player this year, and maybe beyond.
"Oh, definitely, definitely. Winfield is so talented," Frazier told us, maybe, "any team in the NFL could still use his talents, any team, even – say – like the Minnesota Vikings. He's such a valuable asset, at any age, that he could make a coach real happy, maybe even save a coaches job, regardless of where he went, but especially if he came back to wear purple. You understand me here, Antoine?"
Whatever Winfield ends up doing, he'll always be remembered fondly in Minnesota for his tough play and big hits in such a little body. Best of luck on whatever those future endeavors may hold, Antoine, but hopefully that includes one more year of NFL play, specifically in Minnesota.