Star Tribune

Vikings' safety Sanford will try to talk Winfield out of retirement

Antoine Winfield informed the Seattle Seahawks that he intends to retire after the team released him this past weekend. Jamarca Sanford said he’s not convinced Winfield is ready to stop playing.

Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS and MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune staff writers

Updated: September 5, 2013 - 10:47 AM

 

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said he texted cornerback Antoine Winfield but that he would not try to talk any player out of retirement.

Safety Jamarca Sanford intends to take a different approach.

“I will most definitely call him and try and talk him out of retirement,” Sanford said Wednesday. “I’m pretty sure Coach Frazier isn’t going to call him or nobody at the top [of the organization] is going to call him. But I’m for sure going to reach out to him and see what he’s thinking.”

Winfield informed the Seattle Seahawks that he intends to retire after the team released him this past weekend. Sanford said he’s not convinced Winfield is ready to stop playing.

“Because I know how much he loves the game,” Sanford said.

Winfield played 14 seasons, but Sanford believes Winfield still can play at a high level, if healthy. Winfield was bothered because of a sore knee in preseason.

“As long as you’ve got a healthy 26 [Winfield’s number], you’ve got something there,” Sanford said. “Things didn’t work out in Seattle for him. He would fit back right in here with no problem.”

Sanford described Winfield as the best nickel/slot corner he’s seen “hands down.”

“You’ve got a linebacker, a safety and a corner all in one,” Sanford said.

If Winfield chooses to retire, Frazier said he’ll be there to help Winfield in any way.

“If you ever want to talk, let’s talk about taking that next step after your career ends, because it’s a big difference going from playing for [14] years almost to going back to being just a regular citizen,” Frazier said. “It’s a transition and a lot of players struggle with that transition.”

Long way down the list

Christian Ponder hasn’t seen ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Ron Jaworski’s NFL quarterback rankings, but the Vikings quarterback didn’t object to being ranked 27th out of 32 quarterbacks.

“I think a 27th ranking is probably rightfully so with how I’ve played,” Ponder said. “The good thing about that is that leaves me a lot of opportunities to improve and move up in the rankings.”

Jaworski ranked Ponder ahead of only Mark Sanchez, Chad Henne, Kevin Kolb, Jake Locker and Matt Flynn. Ponder said he’s learned over the years not to focus on rankings and other forms of criticism from the media.

“In college and stuff, I was definitely in tune with what the media says,” Ponder said. “I think as I’ve gone through this whole process and learned more and more, either way, whether it’s positive or negative, it’s not beneficial. So I really don’t pay too much attention to it.”

Moving on

Frazier has not spoken to Christian Ballard in a week and is now assuming the backup defensive tackle will not play this season.

“I think you have to approach it that way,” Frazier said. “We have to get these guys ready to play who are here.”

Frazier said there is nothing new from their conversation a week ago. Ballard left the team for personal reasons during training camp and remains on the active/left squad reserve list.

“If he decides he wants to come back [to the NFL], he has to go through us,” Frazier said.

Etc.

• Defensive tackle Kevin Williams (strained right knee) did not practice Wednesday, though Frazier said he’s making progress. No. 3 quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson also missed practice because of illness.

• Defensive linemen Everson Griffen, whose contract is up after this year, said his agent has had some casual dialogue with the Vikings about a new deal.

“They’ve been talking a little bit,” he said. “But it’s just talk. I just have to go out and play ball, control what I can control.”

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