Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski, and Jon Gruden are still unaware that Antoine Winfield was injured in last season's game against Green Bay. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
The Minnesota Vikings' secondary was nothing special in 2011, to be sure, but things got a whole lot worse for the team after the losses of cornerbacks Chris Cook and Antoine Winfield. Now, both of them are back on the field, and the Vikings' secondary should be vastly improved as a result.
Head Coach Leslie Frazier appears to be particularly optimistic about the oldest player on the current Vikings' roster.
"We need his leadership, we need his playmaking ability," Frazier said. "We don't think his best football is behind him."
Now, I think that Frazier might be stretching it a little too far. . .at the age of 34 (and, as the article points out, the only member of the current Vikings roster that was playing football in the 1990s), it's hard to imagine that Winfield is going to get better from here on out. I think he's still a very good player when he's healthy, and he's proven his worth over the past couple of seasons, both with his presence on the field and the way the Vikings have dropped off in his absence.
With Winfield leading the way by providing guidance and mentorship to what has rapidly become a very young Vikings secondary, the back end of the Minnesota defense has a chance to be greatly improved over last season. I'm as happy as anyone to see Antoine Winfield back, but I think he could have a potentially greater impact as a kind of on-field coach, even with his considerable on-field talent still intact.