EDEN PRAIRIE —
"You don't want to give games away, especially this early in the year," Winfield said.
The Vikings did that often in 2011 and were buried before the season was even half over. They finished 3-13 and in last place in the NFC North for the second straight season, and Winfield missed 10 games with a broken right collarbone.
He came back healthy this season, and surrounded by youngsters who have plenty to learn. Cornerback Chris Cook is in his third season but missed most of last year with off-field issues. They also have rookie third-rounder Josh Robinson, and the starting safeties are rookie Harrison Smith and Mistral Raymond, a second-year pro drafted in the sixth round in 2011.
"It's hard to win in this league," Winfield said. "We could easily be 0-2. Like I said, games like that when you have a chance to win, you need to find a way to win."
Of course, building the cohesion and confidence in one another necessary to have a chance against the pass-happy offenses of today takes time — one thing Winfield doesn't have in reserve.
"It feels like we're coming together," Raymond said. "We're communicating a lot more and everyone is just trying to be on the same page. We're still working on it and we're going to continue to work it."
Winfield's words haven't just hit home with the young players.
"He's one of our leaders on the team, the oldest guy on the team, so what he had to say was very pertinent," defensive end Jared Allen said. "We'll leave it at that. What's said in that team room is for our ears only. But it was good.