Cornerback Antoine Winfield made a strong rebound from injury during the 2012 season, helping the Vikings to a playoff berth that few people were predicting before the year got underway.
The Vikings would like to respond to that comeback performance by slashing Winfield’s playing time. Winfield played just under 90 percent of the snaps for the Vikings last season, a number that might have been even higher if not for a broken hand suffered near the end of the season. Coach Leslie Frazier said that the goal is for Winfield to move out of the starting lineup and into a fill-time gig as the team’s slot corner in the nickel.
“It’s not good for him. I don’t think it’s the best thing for our team,” Frazier said, via Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com. “We need him to be able to stay healthy, help us in the classroom, help us on the field. So, we definitely want him back, but we do need to reduce his snaps.”
The Vikings had the same plan last season, but Josh Robinson was slow transitioning to the NFL and Chris Cook broke his arm. That left Winfield back in his old role, which he played without much practice time because the team was trying everything they could to keep him healthy enough to play on Sundays.
Minnesota would like to avoid that this season, although it’s likely some comfort that they know Winfield can handle it if things don’t wind up going as planned.