Notebook: Antone Winfield should return, Cedric Griffin holds onto job
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier expressed optimism that cornerback Antoine Winfield will return after missing four games, and also said Cedric Griffin would remain the starting corner on the right side when the team faces the Green Bay Packers next Monday night at Lambeau Field.
Frazier spoke Monday afternoon at Winter Park after the Vikings went through a brief workout. Players returned after being off for a week during the bye. They will be off again Tuesday and Wednesday before beginning preparations for the unbeaten Packers on Thursday.
Frazier said last week that among the issues that would be discussed during the Vikings' time off was whether Asher Allen should take over the starting role for Griffin.
It had become clear during the Vikings' victory over Carolina on Oct. 30 that the team was concerned about Griffin's level of play. The Vikings made the unusual move, at least for them, of assigning Allen to cover Carolina's top wide receiver, Steve Smith, no matter where he lined up on the field.
Griffin, in his sixth season, has been victimized more and more frequently by opposing quarterbacks and wide receivers who long ago figured out they could go after a guy trying to return from having both of his anterior cruciate ligaments surgically repaired over the past two years.
Evidently, though, the decision was made that Griffin should remain in the starting role. "We're looking at Cedric, as we speak, still being our starter at right corner," Frazier said.
Frazier did not dismiss the possibility that the Vikings might try to sign another cornerback, especially with the decision now made to put Chris Cook back on the 53-man roster but not play him while he awaits trial on a felony strangulation charge stemming from his Oct. 22 arrest for domestic assault after an incident involving his girlfriend.
"We're talking about some things," Frazier said. "We'll see where we are, but we're still talking about some things."
Winfield has not played in a game since he suffered a neck injury Oct. 2 at Kansas City. He was able to practice Monday.
"(He) had a good practice, went through some things today," Frazier said. "We're optimistic he'll be ready to go when we get to Monday night. ... It's great to have Antoine back."
Winfield said he will definitely be on the field against the Packers. There remains some mystery surrounding exactly what was wrong with Winfield's neck. The injury was described as a strain, but Winfield said it was more than that.
The issue is that Vikings players are not supposed to talk about their injuries and thus Winfield has refused to elaborate on what was wrong.
Frazier said again Monday the problem was a ligament strain in Winfield's neck.
"I don't think there is a discrepancy," Frazier said. "He'll be back this week. And that's a tough injury. Anytime you do something to your neck, and it really is what I am saying that it is. It wasn't anything to do with his spine or anything like that.
"To come back and play as violently as he plays, it takes time and hopefully he's had enough time now to where he can feel comfortable enough to go in and play, and play at the level he feels accustomed to playing at."
Frazier said that wide receiver Percy Harvin also looked good at practice Monday. Harvin has been battling sore ribs since training camp. Frazier added that right guard Anthony Herrera (knee) is improving. Herrera was not on the field Monday.
"We'll try to wait a little bit longer and see if he continues to improve," Frazier said.
Herrera suffered an injury to the lateral collateral ligament in his left knee on Oct. 23 against Green Bay and did not play at Carolina. He was replaced by veteran Joe Berger. It's likely he will be out again next Monday.
While every Vikings player said they enjoyed the time off they got during the bye, middle linebacker E.J. Henderson might have benefited the most.
Henderson has dealt with swelling in his left knee since he returned from breaking that same leg late in the 2009 season.
Henderson had enough issues with the swelling this season that he has been taken out of the nickel package and replaced by his brother, Erin, who is the Vikings' starting weak-side linebacker.
Henderson said Monday the swelling has gone down and hopes to get back onto the field when the Vikings are in the nickel and remove one linebacker.
"We'll see how it goes during the week," E.J. Henderson said. "I know Erin's been doing a good job out there so maybe we can rotate or see if I can get in there or something. But I'm definitely looking forward to getting back out there."