By Joseph Gunther
Antoine Winfield, CB #26
Hometown: Akron, OH
College: Ohio State
Experience: 14 years
Winfield may be the oldest member of the Minnesota Vikings team, but he still can make plays.
He ranks second on the Vikings with 34 tackles while starting four of the team’s five games this season. That is the name of his game: tackling. He is considered to be the best tackling cornerback and one of the toughest players in the NFL. He holds the Vikings’ single-season record for tackles by a cornerback with 110 set in 2010.
According to the team’s official website, Winfield entered the Vikings’ Week 3 contest against the San Francisco 49ers five tackles away from 1,000 for his career. He reached the milestone by bringing down 49er receiver Kyle Williams midway through the third quarter at Mall of America Field.
Winfield also provides the Vikings’ defense with good coverage skills. He used those skills well to deflect two passes in the Vikings’ Week 4 victory over the Detroit Lions. In his career, he has forced 108 incomplete passes, including a season-high of 14 in 2006. Sunday, he recorded his 25 career interception.
He has battled through injuries and has played more than 10 games just twice in the last five seasons. In the three prior seasons, he missed just two games.
Even though he has seen his share of injuries, he was not in the starting for the just the fourth time since the Vikings signed him. He was a reserve once in the 2009 season and twice in 2004.
Since joining the Vikings in the summer of 2004, Winfield has earned Pro Bowl honors in 2008, 2009 and 2010. He also earned AP All-Pro second-team honors in 2008.
The honors go behind all-star honors. He has earned NFL Defensive Player of the Week honors once (Jan. 9, 2005) and NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors twice (Oct. 6, 2008 and Dec. 28, 2010). The Vikings named him to the 50 Greatest Vikings team during the team’s 50th season celebration in 2010. He was named the 2006 Vikings Defensive MVP voted by his teammates and the 2006 Korey Stringer Good Guy Award winner by the Twin Cities chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America for his cooperation with the media.
Winfield’s first contract with the Vikings was expired after the 2009 season. It was possible that his next contract could be his last. The Vikings and Winfield’s agent, Ashanti Webb, worked out a five-year extension that will run through the 2014 season. He will turn 37-years-old that following offseason.
Webb had little idea where to start with the negotiations because few players played as well late into their careers as Winfield. He looked back to Darrell Green, who played as well as anyone into his 20th season for the Washington Redskins.
He missed a couple practices this season, but did not miss any game action following the death of his younger brother, Anthony Travis on Sept. 6. After the season opening win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Winfield thanked his teammates for supporting him through the tragedy.
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Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. His work can be found on Examiner.com.