2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Vikings planning on Erin Henderson at MLB

By DAVE CAMPBELL - AP Pro Football Writer
    2013-05-01 17:19

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) - The Minnesota Vikings were widely expected to make a middle linebacker one of their high draft picks to address perhaps the largest void on an otherwise-promising roster.

Their expected starter at this critical position, though, was on the team all along. Erin Henderson, who played the weak side spot last season, has been given the first opportunity to take over. The 26-year-old said Wednesday he was told by the coaches a few months ago to prepare accordingly. So he's put on about 10 pounds to his 6-foot-3 frame to near 250.

``I look forward to the challenge. It's something new for me to learn, something new for me to put my brain to and help me refocus a little bit with the kind of work and time I have to put in in order for us to be successful,'' Henderson said during a break from strength and conditioning drills in the field house at Winter Park.

When Jasper Brinkley signed with Arizona, the Vikings had no obvious replacement. There were veterans available in free agency, including Brian Urlacher after Chicago decided not to re-sign him. Then there were plenty of rookie options, most notably Manti Te'o of Notre Dame who fell down the draft board into the second round.

Even after choosing a defensive tackle and a cornerback with the 23rd and 25th overall selections, the Vikings had another chance in the first round when they packaged four mid-to-late-round picks to move up to No. 29. But that was for wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, not Te'o. They took Penn State's Michael Mauti in the seventh round, but he's coming off multiple reconstructive knee surgeries.

So despite a relatively productive foray in free agency and the draft, the Vikings still had this big hole to fill. But Henderson, whose older brother, E.J., was Minnesota's primary middle linebacker for most of his career here from 2003 through 2011, said he's been looking forward to the move since last season ended. Fourth-round draft pick Gerald Hodges, also from Penn State, has the inside track to start at the weak side spot.

``You never really know how things go and what things they might talk about as we move forward and what they might decide that they want to do,'' Henderson said. ``Right now, that's where my mind is. That's what I'm studying, and that's what I'm trying to prepare myself for.''

He's agile enough to be effective at the position. One of his problems over the last two seasons as a starter at the weak side spot was over-pursuing the ball and winding up in a bad place. That tendency likely won't be as pronounced or detrimental in the middle. Henderson also has played plenty in the nickel packages, so he has experience in pass coverage.

Now he has to prove he can be a valuable three-down player.

``I think I have the respect and trust of my teammates and my coaches. Which I think is very important, especially when you're put into a leadership role and they're asking you to do certain things,'' Henderson said. ``I think them moving me to that position and giving me a chance to play it shows that they trust me upstairs. I love the locker room that we have and the guys who look up to me and respect me for what I've done and what I want to be able to do in the future.''

Chad Greenway, the team's best linebacker, at the strong side spot, said he's excited about the prospect of having Henderson in the middle.

``The instincts are there. His ability is there. I think he's got to do it full time. ... So if that's how it shakes out, I think it'll be really great for him,'' Greenway said. ``He's got the range. He's got the length.''

The other major question on defense left to answer for the Vikings is how they'll replace the leadership, toughness and tackling ability of veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield, who signed with Seattle.

``Oh, that was a hard one. I'll tell you that much. A fan favorite, a player favorite, a team favorite,'' Greenway said.

Added safety Harrison Smith: ``We all had a ton of respect for him and looked to him for advice. Now, it's really an opportunity for the rest of us to kind of fill that void.''

NOTES: QB Christian Ponder said the bruised triceps on his throwing arm that kept him out of the playoff game at Green Bay has healed fully. But he had a scare about two weeks after the season when the contusion came back, his arm swelled up and the muscle hardened. Ponder said he thought it was a blood clot and went to the emergency room to be safe. ``About two weeks after that, all the effects went away. Since then, I've been working out probably two months and it's been fine,'' Ponder said. ... WR Greg Childs, who missed his rookie season with a torn patellar tendon in both knees, has been working out and doing drills at full speed. ``All the necessary things I needed to be doing, I'm doing them now,'' Childs said, declining to put a date on his return to the field with the team.

---

Follow Dave Campbell on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/DaveCampbellAP

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Tony RomoJul 27 10:59a

Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo (back) will sit out practice Friday, July 25 as part of a preplanned day off, according to Jason Garrett. Romo is scheduled to take [ More ]

Brian TymsJul 27 10:12a

The New England Patriots signed WR Brian Tyms (Browns) Sunday, July 27. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Geno SmithJul 27 10:05a

New York Jets QB Geno Smith received 16 snaps with the first-team offense during practice Saturday, July 26, while QB Michael Vick received three snaps. Smith has received 42 [ More ]

Davin MeggettJul 27 09:02a

The Indianapolis Colts re-signed RB Davin Meggett (Redskins) Sunday, July 27. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

J.T. ThomasJul 27 01:12a

Jacksonville Jaguars TE D.J. Tialavea (quadriceps) and LB J.T. Thomas (hamstring) left practice early Saturday, July 26, because of injuries. Thomas was carted off the field after suffering his injury.

Darius JohnsonJul 27 01:02a

Free-agent WR Darius Johnson (Falcons) was arrested in May by the Atlanta Police Department for driving under the influence, expired or no driver's license on person, failure to have [ More ]

Willie YoungJul 27 12:32a

Chicago Bears DE Willie Young (quadriceps) left practice early Saturday, July 26, because of a sore quadriceps, according to head coach Marc Trestman.

Quentin GrovesJul 27 12:12a

The Houston Texans will sign free-agent LB Quentin Groves (Browns).

Lawrence SidburyJul 27 12:12a

Updating a previous report, the Houston Texans have signed free-agent LB Lawrence Sidbury (Colts). Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Andre JohnsonJul 27 12:02a

Houston Texans WR Andre Johnson said he will be moved around to different spots in head coach Bill O'Brien's offensive system.

Brian HoyerJul 27 12:02a

Cleveland Browns QB Brian Hoyer (knee) said he will wear a brace on his surgically repaired knee during the entire season. He said he does not believe it will affect his play much.

Cam ThomasJul 26 11:42p

Pittsburgh Steelers DEs Cam Thomas, Brian Arnfelt and Stephon Tuitt all received snaps at left defensive end with the first-team defense during practice Saturday, July 26.

Ben GardnerJul 26 11:12p

Dallas Cowboys DE Ben Gardner (shoulder) suffered a shoulder injury during practice Saturday, July 26, and is scheduled to undergo an MRI.

Mike NealJul 26 11:02p

Green Bay Packers LB Mike Neal (abdomen) and Nick Perry (foot, knee) is close to coming off the Physically Unable to Perform list and participating in practice, according to head coach Mike McCarthy.

Lawrence SidburyJul 26 10:22p

The Houston Texans are expected to sign free-agent LB Lawrence Sidbury (Colts), according to a source.

Tim FuggerJul 26 10:12p

New York Jets WR Quincy Enunwa (hip) and LB Tim Fugger (ankle) did not participate in practice Saturday, July 26.

K. ThompkinsJul 26 10:02p

New England Patriots WR Kenbrell Thompkins (undisclosed) was not able to finish practice Saturday, July 26, after he slid on the ground during the later portions of practice. The [ More ]

Tommy KellyJul 26 10:02p

New England Patriots DT Tommy Kelly (knee) participated in some of the team's walkthrough Saturday, July 26, and has been activated from the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Vince WilforkJul 26 10:02p

New England Patriots DT Vince Wilfork (Achilles') said his surgically repaired Achilles' tendon responded well during one-on-one rush drills during practice Saturday, July 26.

Tyler GaffneyJul 26 09:02p

Carolina Panthers RB Tyler Gaffney (knee) will miss the entire 2014 season because of a torn lateral meniscus in his knee.

Jimmy StatenJul 26 08:32p

Seattle Seahawks OG Nate Isles (hand) suffered a left hand injury during practice Saturday, July 26, while DT Jimmy Staten suffered a leg injury.

Phillip TannerJul 26 07:32p

Free-agent RB William Powell (Eagles), RB Orwin Smith (Packers) and Phillip Tanner (Cowboys) worked out for the Seattle Seahawks Saturday, July 26.

Rokevious WatkinsJul 26 06:52p

The Kansas City Chiefs waived OG Rokevious Watkins (back) with the non-football injury designation.

Alex OkaforJul 26 06:32p

Arizona Cardinals OLB Alex Okafor is filling in for OLB John Abraham (personal) as the starting weakside linebacker.

Mark AsperJul 26 06:12p

The Buffalo Bills released OG Mark Asper.

Tony MoeakiJul 26 06:12p

Buffalo Bills TE Tony Moeaki (hamstring) will be out a significant amount of time with a hamstring injury. TE Chris Gragg (dehydration) is expected back by next week.

Aaron RossJul 26 06:12p

Baltimore Ravens CB Aaron Ross (Achilles') was placed on Injured Reserve with a torn Achilles'.

Dominique JonesJul 26 06:02p

The Buffalo Bills signed free-agent TE Dominique Jones (Chiefs) to an undisclosed deal.

B. RoethlisbergerJul 26 05:42p

Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger concentrated on strengthening his throwing arm in the offseason and said it is the strongest it has been in his career. He also worked [ More ]

Bobby RaineyJul 26 05:42p

Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Mike James is working with the second-team offense Saturday, July 26. It's still early, and Bobby Rainey could still figure into the mix at the [ More ]

Sean McGrathJul 26 04:32p

Kansas City Chiefs TE Sean McGrath has decided to retire, according to head coach Andy Reid.

Devon StillJul 26 03:52p

Cincinnati Bengals DT Devon Still (back) has been cleared to practice. Still was listed on the physically unable to perform list at the start of training camp.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2014 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group