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Winfield ready to return to Vikings lineup

By Judd Zulgad

McClatchy Newspapers

EDEN PRAIRIE — Cornerback Antoine Winfield went through the majority of drills in practice Wednesday and appears set to return from a hamstring injury Sunday when the Minnesota Vikings play at San Francisco. "I'll definitely be out there," he said. "I can't wait."

Winfield, who has missed four of the past five games, said he "didn't miss a snap" Wednesday, but the injury report listed him as having limited participation. Nonetheless, Winfield's optimism is good news for the Vikings.

Winfield originally strained his hamstring Oct. 28 against Philadelphia and then had a significant setback in practice the following Wednesday. He missed two games before returning to start Nov. 18 against Oakland. Winfield aggravated the injury early in that victory and sat out the second half and the past two games.

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"It was tough for me," said Winfield, who has mostly been a spectator for the Vikings' three-game winning streak. "I like to compete. Definitely like to get out there with my teammates and have a little fun. But it worked out for the best. We won three in a row. Hopefully we go on a stretch the next four games and get in the hunt."

Vikings were cautious

Winfield likely could have played in the Vikings' 42-10 victory over Detroit on Sunday — coach Brad Childress said Winfield was at "about 95 percent" — but the Vikings medical staff did not want to take any chances and rookie Marcus McCauley played instead.

Before this season, Winfield had not missed a game since his first year with the Vikings in 2004. He admits the time off has left him feeling good.

"This is as healthy as I have ever been," he said. "I have no nagging anything. Just ran out here today. The only thing is probably my wind. I haven't been really running for like the last month so I get a little tired. But I'll be cool once the adrenaline starts running."

And then he had none

Defensive end Kenechi Udeze thought he had the first interception of his four-year NFL career Sunday. On Wednesday, he found out otherwise.

After reviewing the second-quarter play on which Udeze went 37 yards to help set up a Vikings touchdown, Elias Sports Bureau ruled the play a sack and fumble recovery.

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Defensive end Ray Edwards, who was suspended by the NFL on Wednesday for four games for violating the league's policy on anabolic steroids and related substances, was given credit for his team-leading fifth sack of the season. Edwards also gets a forced fumble and Udeze now has a fumble recovery.

This change is not unusual. Elias, which serves as the NFL's official statistician, regularly reviews plays from games each week.

NOTES: Left tackle Bryant McKinnie returned to the Twin Cities on Tuesday after traveling to Miami to attend Monday's funeral for Sean Taylor, his friend and former college teammate at Miami. "It was tough but it was good," McKinnie said. "A nice service." Taylor, 24, died Nov. 27, one day after being shot in the bedroom of his Florida home by an intruder. "[His] dad wanted to look at it as a celebration of his 24 years," McKinnie said. "They tried to make it seem like a more positive thing but people are still grieving."

  • Safeties Mike Doss (hamstring) and Tank Williams (knee); defensive end Erasmus James (knee); linebacker E.J. Henderson (illness); and wide receiver Robert Ferguson (personal matter) were among those who did not practice Wednesday. Defensive tackle Spencer Johnson (groin); running back Adrian Peterson (knee); linebacker Dontarrious Thomas (groin); and wide receiver Troy Williamson (concussion) were limited.
  • Peterson continues to lead all running backs in Pro Bowl balloting among fans with 557,873 votes. Vikings fullback Tony Richardson also held on to his lead as the top vote-getter (146,238) among NFC fullbacks. Fans, players and coaches all cast votes for the Pro Bowl squads, with each counting one-third toward determining the rosters. Teams will be announced Dec. 18 and the game will be played Feb. 10.
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