Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
We mentioned Thursday that we were waiting to hear from Minnesota cornerback Antoine Winfield. Well, Winfield addressed his absence from the Vikings' offseason program in a statement released late Thursday night to the Star Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press.
That's the good news. The bad news? That statement doesn't exactly clear up the questions surrounding his absence. Here's the statement:
"I want all to know that I'm not at OTAs because I don't want to be there. I do want to be there! As I have stated before, I want to finish my career a Viking."
The first sentence is especially difficult to interpret. I'm guessing Winfield's point is that he's not skipping practices just for the fun of it. There's a reason that's holding him back, one he apparently wishes didn't exist.
Does the reason have anything to do with failed negotiations on a new contract? He doesn't explicitly say so, but the phrase, "I want to finish my career as a Viking" is typically NFL code for signing a contract extension.
In any event, this probably means Winfield won't be at Vikings practice anytime soon. As we discussed Thursday, those practices are voluntary. If Winfield starts threatening a training camp holdout, the story will move to another level. Right now, it's just a reminder that his contract is due to expire after the 2009 season.
Continuing around the NFC North:
Vikings cornerback Asher Allen, a third-round draft pick, has undergone arthroscopic surgery on one of his knees, according to Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune. The procedure is believed to be minor.
Quarterback John David Booty figures to make a little extra cash if the Vikings sign quarterback Brett Favre, who is going to want his No. 4 from Booty. Scoggins addresses the question.
Chicago tailback Matt Forte suffered a strained hamstring during Wednesday's organized training activities, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times, but the injury is believed minor.
New Chicago linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa is due to earn $1 million this season, according to Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune.
Green Bay tight end Jermichael Finley is vowing to let his game do his talking after a rookie season that included several unfortunate public statements, writes Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. On his Twitter page, Finley writes: "Let me clarify some of this media hoopla - I've stepped out of line and said some things that are foul and mad innapropriate. But that's not me and I apologize to my fans. I'm dedicated to winning for gb that's it. Period."
Detroit running back Kevin Smith on his prediction that the Lions will make the playoffs: "I'm just not that scared to put it on my Web site. It's not that big of a deal. We want to make the playoffs. I feel like we're going to make the playoffs." Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press has the story.