If the Minnesota Vikings have any hope of winning their upcoming Monday Night Football matchup with the Green Bay Packers, they'll need to find a way to slow down the aerial assault that is Aaron Rodgers. Luckily for the Vikings, they'll have an extra bit of support in the defensive secondary that they've been missing for quite some time.
After fully participating in practice this week, cornerback Antoine Winfield will play when the Vikings head to Lambeau Field to take on the Packers. The Pro Bowl cover man has missed the last four games with a neck injury, but is finally healthy and will be ready to go on Monday.
"It's big for us," Vikings defensive coordinator Fred Pagac said. "He's one of our best football players. He's back to being healthy. It gives us depth in the back end and we're excited about being back."
With the enormous amount of struggles that the Vikings have had a cornerback as of late, Winfield's return couldn't have come at a better time. Fellow starter Cedric Griffin has struggled throughout the first eight games and doesn't appear to be recovering from his slump anytime soon. Second-year man Chris Cook is facing domestic assault charges and won't be participating in football activities until he gets his life back on track. Asher Allen has experience, but has never proven himself to be anything more than a subpackage cornerback. The remainder of the Vikings' cornerback depth is too inexperienced or inept for covering the Packers' talented hoard of receivers.
Although Winfield's coverage skills are still among the best in the NFL despite his age (34), the rest of his game cannot be overlooked. Since he first entered the league, he has proven himself to be one of the best corners at playing the run. Whether the 5'9'', 180 pound defender is shutting down the passing attack or stepping up and making a big stop in the run game, Winfield utilizes his keen instincts to make impact plays and force turnovers.
"He's one of the better football players that I've been around in my coaching career," Pagac, a NFL coach of 34 years, said. "He has instincts, he has savvy, he has toughness, he has quickness, he has power. He might be little, but he'll sting you."
The love for Winfield's play doesn't stop in Minnesota, however. According to Packers' head coach Mike McCarthy, the Vikings defensive backfield is a whole different beast when Winfield is playing.
"He's a playmaker and a leader on that defense," McCarthy said.
The Vikings secondary received a huge boost in both skill and morale with the return of Winfield. We'll have to wait until Monday night to tell whether or not his presence is enough to elevate the Vikings past their rivals, the only undefeated team in the NFL.
- Green Bay Packers
- Antoine Winfield
- Minnesota Vikings