Notebook: No decision on Antoine Winfield's status for Sunday
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - Antoine Winfield sat out a second consecutive day of practice on Thursday because of a neck injury, but Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said no decision has been made on whether the cornerback will play in Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals at the Metrodome.
Frazier also said the injury was not spinal-cord related and that an MRI showed no damage.
The Vikings expect to know more on Friday about Winfield's status.
"We're going to try to see if he's able to do anything (Friday)," Frazier said. "If not it will probably end up being a game-time decision. We're going to hold out hope that things will work out and we can get him on the field."
Winfield was injured making a tackle in last Sunday's loss at Kansas City, according to Frazier, and came in on Monday with neck stiffness and soreness that should go away over time.
"Muscular would probably be a good term," to describe the injury, Frazier said. " ... There is something that's creating the stiffness in his neck. Any time you deal with neck (issues), of course, you're very cautious. He's getting a little bit better, so we'll just see how he feels tomorrow."
Winfield will not be pushed to return. "Nobody is going to urge him to do anything other than what he thinks he's capable of doing," Frazier said.
"Antoine is a hard guy to replace," Frazier said. "Even that play he got injured on, he's making a tackle that a lot of guys in the secondary might not be able to make in our league. The first play of the game they run his side, and I was surprised they did, and he tackled the back in the backfield for I think maybe a loss or a zero gain.
"It's hard to replace that at the corner position. You'll have someone in there that will do a good job. But it's not Antoine Winfield."
Punting through pain
Vikings punter Chris Kluwe missed practice on Wednesday because of a sore right hamstring but expects to be ready for Sunday.
"It feels fine," Kluwe said Thursday. "I tweaked it on the first punt (Sunday) running down and then obviously finished out the game. Didn't really feel it going up through the ball -- more kind of on the recoil. Just been getting treatment and should be ready to go by Sunday."
Kluwe said the pain isn't in the middle of the hamstring and does not really affect his kicking.
"There might be some slight discomfort, but it's football, not tiddlywinks," Kluwe said. "So, I'll play through it."
Kluwe did not practice again Thursday and Frazier said an attempt will be made to have him punt on Friday. If Kluwe can't do that, Frazier said that would be a "concern," adding, "if he's not able to kick tomorrow, then you've got to start looking at alternatives."
The Vikings brought in former Detroit Lions punter Nick Harris for a workout on Monday and he could be signed if Kluwe doesn't show progress.
E.J. feeling better
Middle linebacker E.J. Henderson said he is "feeling better than I did in the past couple of weeks" after ceding the nickel role to his brother and playing only 44 snaps in last week's loss at Kansas City.
For nearly a month, Henderson has been dealing with soreness and swelling in his left knee that is related to the titanium rod surgeons put in his leg to repair a fractured femur in December 2009. Weakside linebacker Erin Henderson took over the nickel duties against the Chiefs and held up well.
Asked if they might continue that arrangement through the team's Nov. 7 bye, E.J. Henderson said, "We'll see how it feels, talk to the trainers and talk to the coaches. But hopefully, if I'm getting better, I can get back out there and get my normal reps."
Going to the air
The Vikings are second to last in the NFL in passing offense (154.8 yards per game) but they will be facing a Cardinals defense that is 26th in the NFL against the pass, giving up 282.8 yards per game.
Arizona has a rookie right cornerback in Patrick Peterson and a second-year left corner in A.J. Jefferson.
"We definitely have a plan to throw on those guys," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. "We want to get some balls airborne in their direction, both their guys are young and talented, but we feel confident with our receivers matching up with them."
Positive memories of Payton
Frazier was a teammate of the late Walter Payton with the Chicago Bears and has heard about the new book by Jeff Pearlman in which the author writes about Payton's struggles with depression and painkillers toward the end of his life.
"I've been told about it from different people," Frazier said when asked about the book. "They've shared some of the information that they read. I have so much respect for Walter and his family. As a person and a player it just hurts me that things are written or said negatively about Walter. I remember a great friend, that's what I remember in Walter and a great teammate as well. Those are the memories I hold onto.
"It doesn't change my perception of Walter Payton. I know the Walter that I knew. I know the person that he was around me and his teammates. What type of teammate he was, what type of friend he was. It doesn't change my opinion of Walter Payton. It just hurts for his wife and his two kids. Walter's a good person."
• Frazier said that center John Sullivan (ankle) returned to practice Thursday after sitting out Wednesday and "did pretty good." Sullivan was limited in the session. Also limited were safety Husain Abdullah (pelvis), linebacker E.J. Henderson (knee), left tackle Charlie Johnson (elbow) and safety Jamarca Sanford (knee).
• Tight ends Jim Dray (pectoral) and Todd Heap (hamstring) and punter Dave Zastudil (right knee) did not practice for Arizona on Thursday. Heap had been limited on Wednesday. The Cardinals have re-signed punter Ben Graham in case Zastudil can't go. Limited for the Cardinals were wide receivers Early Doucet (hamstring) and Chansi Stuckey (hamstring), Jefferson (ankle), linebacker Joey Porter (knee), center Lyle Sendlein (elbow) and running back Beanie Wells (hamstring).
• The Vikings rushed five or more against the Chiefs only five times on 31 drop backs Sunday. "We thought we could get there with our front four," defensive coordinator Fred Pagac said. "They ended up getting into a max protection there in the second half quite a bit and blitzing wouldn't have been effective against that. We have a good front four, we are going to send them, that's their job, and they have to get there."
• Fullback Ryan D'Imperio, who was promoted from the practice squad on Tuesday, received a three-year contract with minimum base salaries.
• Linebacker Chad Greenway is appealing the $7,500 fine he received for a horse collar tackle he was called for against Tampa Bay in Week 3.
• The Arizona Cardinals returned 400 tickets for Sunday's game. They can be purchased by going to the Ticketmaster website or by calling 1-800-745-3000.
Tom Pelissero contributed