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Winfield won't play in Minny

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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Vikings pared their roster to 53 players on Saturday, but the buzz over speculation that Pro Bowl cornerback Antoine Winfield might return home for one final season proved to be short-lived.

The Vikings revealed no major surprises in their roster cuts announced shortly after the league's 5 p.m. deadline. But much to the disappointment of fans, their roster won't include Winfield, who has decided to retire after being released by Seattle, according to Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.

Reports on Saturday morning that Seattle planned to release Winfield prompted speculation that he possibly could play one final season with the Vikings, his employer for the past nine seasons.

The Vikings released Winfield last winter because he was due $7.25 million this season. The team subsequently tried to re-sign him at a lower price, but Winfield accepted a one-year deal with Seattle.

The Seahawks, however, have a group of young and talented cornerbacks who were ahead of Winfield on the depth chart. At age 36, Winfield also was dealing with a sore knee this preseason and decided to retire after 14 seasons rather than attempt to continue his career.

The Vikings, meanwhile, released 19 players, most notably wide receiver Stephen Burton and defensive end D'Aundre Reed.

Burton was an early surprise in camp, but he could not sustain that momentum and finished behind Joe Webb in their competition for the fifth wide receiver spot.

The coaching staff faced an interesting decision with Webb, the former quarterback who changed positions this season. Though still fairly raw as a receiver, Webb is a terrific athlete who gives the team some versatility on special teams.

There was some speculation that the Vikings might only keep two quarterbacks if Webb made the team because he could play quarterback in an emergency situation. But McLeod Bethel-Thompson survived cuts as the third quarterback.

Undrafted rookie fullback Zach Line began training camp as a long shot. But Jerome Felton's three-game suspension by the NFL opened the door for Line, who impressed the coaching staff with a strong preseason. Line could split snaps with tight end Rhett Ellison at fullback in Felton's absence.

The Vikings also faced some intriguing roster decisions on defense. With a logjam at linebacker, the Vikings decided to keep eight, including rookie draft picks Gerald Hodges and Mike Mauti.

Veteran free agent Desmond Bishop also made the team after a slow start to camp because of a groin injury. Bishop looked far more comfortable in the final two preseason games and could overtake Marvin Mitchell as the starter at outside linebacker.

The Vikings enter the season remarkably young and thin in the secondary, which is why the Winfield speculation made sense. Their top three cornerbacks -- Chris Cook, Xavier Rhodes and Josh Robinson -- have combined for 24 career starts.

Marcus Sherels won a job for the third consecutive season after producing a 109-yard kickoff return and an interception in the final preseason game Thursday night. Sherels had competed with Bobby Felder for the punt returner job and fifth cornerback spot in training camp. Felder was released and appears to be a candidate for the practice squad.

The Vikings will announce their eight-man practice squad today. The team also could tweak its 53-man roster after scanning the waiver wire before players return to Winter Park on Monday.

-- Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 1, 2013 B5

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