Winfield, a 10-year NFL veteran who played in his first Pro Bowl in February, missed a mandatory minicamp last weekend to attend the funeral of a friend's mother. But he has been absent this week from organized team activities, the series of 14 non-padded practices held throughout the spring and early summer that aren't required but strongly encouraged.
Winfield wasn't the only Viking missing. Five other players from the 85-man roster weren't present Thursday, the only day that practice was open to reporters this week. Running backs Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor were among the absent, and coach Brad Childress said he wasn't sure if they would participate in the remaining workouts this month.
"They have surprised me back and forth when they are in and out," Childress said.
Winfield's absence is different, considering he has entered the final year of the deal that he signed with the Vikings in 2004 as a free agent. He skipped most of the offseason workouts in 2007, vaguely describing his reasons as a difference in communication styles with Childress and a frustration with the direction of the Vikings' offense after lackluster production the previous year.
Winfield missed six games that season because of injuries and later said that working out on his own was the wrong choice.
Childress said he spoke with Winfield on Tuesday after the cornerback's required physical exam. The coach declined to characterize Winfield's decision as contract-related or otherwise. Childress said he wasn't concerned "in and of itself" by Winfield's absence.
"He is the one that made the statement, 'I wouldn't miss again,'" Childress said of Winfield. "And up until halfway through our offseason program, he was perfect in his attendance. Like I said, it would be wrong for me to color it in any specific direction."
Winfield's agent, Ashanti Webb, didn't return a message seeking comment. Webb said last month that contract negotiations with the Vikings were at an impasse.
"There's so many moving parts," Johnson said. "Antoine's a great player. He knows the system. He's a veteran, so when he comes he'll pick up right where he left off last year."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press