EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -Antoine Winfield tried to sneak off the field, hiding sheepishly behind teammate Tank Williams and chuckling all the way.
Nice try. There was no way he was avoiding a gaggle of reporters waiting for some answers.
Winfield made one thing abundantly clear Friday after the first practice of a mandatory three-day mini-camp - his absence from the Minnesota Vikings' optional offseason program has nothing to do with money.
``I've been reading on the internet, I don't know which one of you wrote it, something about my contract. Some way this is a quiet protest, by me holding out, I'm disgruntled about my contract,'' the cornerback said. ``That's so far from the truth. I haven't went upstairs and asked for any money, any extension. So that's not it.''
Just what ``it'' is that prompted him to skip last week's organized team activities, and the previous two months of offseason workouts, Winfield wouldn't specify.
During a miserable first year under Brad Childress, Winfield expressed his frustration with the lack of offense on several occasions, and said he sat down for a meeting with the coach Thursday to clear the air.
``It went pretty well. We were both honest,'' Winfield said. ``We got some things off of our chests, but I'm not going to put that in the paper.''
He declined to comment on reports that he requested a trade, but did say that he doesn't intend to miss training camp.
``Training camp starts, I'll definitely be here,'' Winfield said. ``I don't plan on holding out or nothing like that. I don't want to be a distraction with what (owner Zygi) Wilf is trying to accomplish.''
Winfield was the only healthy Viking to skip last week's ``OTAs,'' and he made it sound like he wasn't planning on being at next week's voluntary workouts, either.
``We'll cross that road when we get to it,'' Winfield said with a telling chuckle.
The absence of one of the defense's veteran leaders, a respected voice in the locker room and an admired competitor on the field, hasn't sat well with Childress. But the coach seems resigned to the stance Winfield has taken, as long as the cornerback reports in good shape.
``As much as we all mother hen, we'd love to have everybody here and we talk about being here, but people have to do what they have to do,'' Childress said. ``While I don't care for that, I can't require him to be here.
``I know this - he came back and he is in good condition. His body weight is right where it needs to be. He's not a guy that is lying on the couch eating bon bons.''
On Friday, Winfield rejoined a veteran secondary that includes safeties Darren Sharper and Dwight Smith and second-year cornerback Cedric Griffin, who impressed as a rookie.
The unit that was the Vikings' strength last season remains largely intact, with cornerback Fred Smoot, linebacker Napoleon Harris and defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin the only significant defections.
Leslie Frazier was hired away from Indianapolis to run the defense, bringing with him a similar scheme to Tomlin's which reduced the importance of Winfield's presence for the offseason workouts.
The Vikings have also revamped their receiving corps and drafted running back Adrian Peterson in the first round in hopes that the offense can start pulling its weight, too.
That wasn't the case last season, and the Vikings missed the playoffs for the second straight season, which could be the root of Winfield's actions.
``With all the talent we had, we definitely expected to get into the playoffs,'' Winfield said. ``To go 6-10 and finish the way we did with the outing in St. Louis. ... It was kind of like guys were trying not to get hurt going into the offseason, but they made some moves. We're expecting big things this year, hopefully get into the playoffs and get a chance to get into the Super Bowl.''

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