Posted on: August 10, 2010 11:58 pm
Posted by Andy Benoit
ESPN’s Kevin Seifert wrote a very compelling piece on Vikings middle linebacker E.J. Henderson today. Few expected Henderson to be on the field for 2010 training camp. The seventh-year pro was arguably the best 4-3 middle linebacker in all of football last season, but he suffered a gruesome fractured femur in December that, many believe, put his chances of ever playing again on the wrong side of 50/50.
After the injury, doctors placed a permanent titanium rod in Henderson’s leg. He was in a wheelchair for six weeks, on crutches for another six weeks and walking with a cane for six weeks after that. It seemed his likely best-case scenario would be to get placed on PUP for training camp and sneak onto the 53-man roster sometime after all the trees lost their leaves.
But instead, Henderson is on the field and, in his estimation, competing for the Week 1 starting job (at this point, his replacement, second-year pro Jasper Brinkley, still has the edge, but that’s subject to change). Seifert writes:
Henderson has cut his original recovery timetable in half, and in the process surpassed every milestone set in front of him. His final hurdle will be a big one -- actual game experience -- but it's not out of the question that he could play in Saturday's preseason opener at St. Louis.
"I've pretty much known I would get back as soon as I was able to walk again," Henderson said. "Seeing the progress I made each and every week, I knew I would be ready to rock."
Initial reports suggested it would take up to a year for Henderson's leg to heal, but in their first meeting after the injury, Henderson told Vikings coach Brad Childress that he would "set a whole new protocol" for rehabilitating the injury.
Childress wanted to play it safe and put Henderson on PUP, but Henderson proved to be well-conditioned and ready to go. In fact, he’s been working with the first team defense this week. He still has more mountains to climb, but at this rate, Henderson is poised to claim the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award before Halloween.
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Posted on: August 10, 2010 11:50 pm
Edited on: August 10, 2010 11:52 pm
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Posted on: June 23, 2010 4:26 pm
Minnesota’s E.J. Henderson was arguably the best Mike linebacker in football last season. But in December, the seventh-year pro suffered the type of broken leg that television networks hesitate to even show viewers. Henderson, entering his eighth season, has vowed to be on the field in Week 1, but the sad reality is such a scenario is unlikely.
Thus, replacement Jasper Brinkley will have the weight of his world back on his shoulders. He told the Star Tribune that he’s “definitely” preparing as if he’ll be the starter. The hope is that the world isn’t quite as heavy this time.
As a fifth-round rookie last year, Brinkley was often slow to diagnose run plays and was vulnerable in coverage. Whereas Henderson took advantage of playing behind the Williams Wall by attacking downhill, Brinkley had a tendency to drift east and west.
But on the bright side, Brinkley showed good explosiveness when he trusted his recognition. And he proved he can operate in trash.
Brinkley has had a good offseason. “I definitely feel like I came a long way," he said after a June minicamp. "Last year was a whole lot of learning for me. I call it teach tape. So definitely got in here this offseason and critiqued myself really hard because you’re your [own] worst critic. So [there were] a lot of things I wanted to work on and I came out here and got better.”
Expect a successful ’10 campaign for the ex-South Carolina Gamecock. He’s fortunate to be playing behind the NFL’s best four-man line and between to two rock-solid outside linebackers, Chad Greenway and Ben Leber.