Friday, February 12, 2016

e.j. henderson

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Jasper Brinkley made was all set to be E.J. Henderson’s primary backup at middle linebacker in 2011, but a preseason hip injury sent him to injured reserve which meant he didn’t play a single snap in the regular season.

This year, the stakes are even higher as he is in line to outright replace Henderson as the team’s starting middle linebacker, but once again injures are casting a shadow of doubt over his ability to successfully man the position.

In the middle of the OTA schedule Brinkley suffered a groin injury.  He opened Tuesday’s minicamp on the sideline, but Brinkley says the reason is not his groin injury, but rather is related to the hip injury from last year.

“Just a process with the hip, still keep going so hopefully I’ll be out at practice one day before (minicamp is over),” Brinkley said on Tuesday. “This goes back to the hip. Other than that, though, everything is good.”

Brinkley described the decision to sit out as “precautionary” and said if this were a regular season game he would be playing.

“The first couple of OTAs, I was able to do a little bit. I was able to show what I could do,” Brinkley said. “I’m pretty sure if the coaches weren’t satisfied they would bring somebody else in. It’s still a work in progress.”

Brinkley is probably right about that.  The Vikings passed on a chance to sign Rocky McIntosh, who has now signed with the Rams, but other options still exist if they don’t think Brinkley is a true solution.

One of those options?  E.J. Henderson.

Tyrone McKenzie has been playing as the first team middle linebacker during Brinkley’s absence.

As pointed out by The Viking Age, Sid Hartman recently stated that there is a “good chance” that middle linebacker E.J. Henderson re-signs with the Vikings this offseason.

Now, E.J. has been one of my favorite Vikings to watch for a number of years now (and I would love to still wear his jersey on game day without feeling silly), but even I wouldn’t have predicted that the elder Henderson somehow worked into the Vikings offseason plan of getting younger, healthier, and less expensive.

Jasper Brinkley might not fit the Tampa-2 scheme real great, as some media outlets have been quick to opine, but the right rotation of Brinkley, Erin Henderson and Chad Greenway could make them a very effective group.

Hartman writes that Henderson is not wavering from his demand to be paid the same as last season for his services, which would bring his salary in at $6.7 million.

That isn’t going to happen.  If it was, it already would have.

Henderson is on the wrong side of thirty, has had trouble staying on the field in consecutive seasons, and is a major liability in pass coverage.  If the Vikings planned to give that type of money to a veteran linebacker this offseason, that too would have already happened.

In fact, looking back at how the offseason has played, one of my only real complaints is that the Vikings didn’t pony up for a stud linebacker when they had the chance.  Stephen Tulloch (signed with Lions), Curtis Lofton (Saints), Dan Connor (Cowboys), and David Hawthorne (Seahawks) all could have been sure-fire upgrades at the linebacker position.

I like Brinkley’s potential, but the linebacker position is one to keep an eye on as the offseason progresses.

With long-time starter E.J. Henderson, the Vikings are leaving the door open to his return, but it seems more likely they move on.  In an offseason where free agent linebackers are, for some reason, getting treated like they have less value than punters, the Vikings have kept their distance from any of them.

One reason for that is that they have high hopes for third year player Jasper Brinkley.

Brinkley is 26 years old and missed all of 2011 when he had hip surgery in August.  He had played in all 32 games of the previous seasons, including taking Henderson’s place in 2009 following the leg injury that ended his season.

“When (Brinkley) did step in for E.J., he continued to get better and really started playing well — especially as we went through the playoffs and the more experience he got,” Spielman said from the NFL’s owner meetings.

“He started off very well last year (in training camp) and it’s a shame he got his hip hurt,” Spielman continued, “but we’ve got a lot of high expectations for Jasper coming back.”

Henderson, age 31, does not seem to fit into Spielman’s youth movement strategy employed this offseason and the most likely scenario is that Brinkley’s main source of competition will come from the 2012 NFL Draft.

For now, consider starting middle linebacker Brinkley’s job to lose.

He’ll play when he wants to play, and apparently he again wants to play.

Randy Moss took advantage of a slow news week, and the name power he still possesses with NFL fans, to make a splash and announce his desire to unretire from football and make a return to the NFL.

“I just wanna go to a team and play some football,” Moss announced in a Monday webcast that marked his 35th birthday.  “Faith, family, and football, that’s my M.O., bro.  Your boy be back for the upcoming season.”

“I’m coming to tear somebody’s heads off, man,” Moss said via another webcast in the evening.  “I got something on my shoulder and it’s a chip that I need to get it off.”

A Randy Moss with a chip on the shoulder has proven to be the best kind of Randy Moss over the years, but he has a personality that seems to always be forgetting the lessons he had to learn along the way.  Specifically, Moss sounded as if he genuinely would have liked things to end differently when he got his second chance in Minnesota.

“I got regrets of how I left New England, I got regrets of how I left Minnesota, and I got regrets of how I retired,” Moss said.

I’ll admit that I have a soft spot for Randy Moss, as he will always be one of the top receivers to ever play for the Vikings, but if I am willing to put aside sentiment and hope for E.J. Henderson to be replaced then I am certainly able to ignore my desire to see #84 suit up once again in purple.  This team needs to get younger talent on both sides of the ball, and Moss doesn’t fit that description.

The good news for the Vikings is that the already deep free agent class at wide receiver just gained one more name.  Of course, this comes on the heels of a report that the Eagles will franchise DeSean Jackson, so the free agent pickings will continue to get slimmer between now and March.

Still, I will enjoy seeing Moss play again if a team is willing to give him yet another chance… as long as that team isn’t the Chicago Bears.

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As many of you know, I have a personal bias towards E.J. Henderson, as he has been one of my favorite Vikings of the modern era.

Like Jim Kleinsasser, who will retire following this game, Henderson has spent his entire career in Minnesota. With one more sack in today’s game, he can move into third place for the most sacks by a Vikings linebacker which, as if you didn’t know, puts him into some pretty elite company.

He has 744 tackles in his career, 15.5 sacks, five interceptions, a touchdown, and 10 forced fumbles. Not to mention, he made one of the most successful comebacks in team history after a broken leg derailed his 2009 season.

Henderson has not been the same player since that injury, however, and even I have to admit a noticeable drop-off in his play has contributed to this season’s disappointing outcome.

Henderson will see his contract expire after this season and while he is hopeful to finish his career as a Viking, he admits that he has not heard from the Vikings front office.

“It’s natural coming up on your last year, always wondering where you’re going to be at next September,” Henderson explained. “So, of course, it’s been on my mind, but I’m trying to stay positive and hopefully in the next couple of months we can get something done and I’ll still be a Viking.”

The 2003 second round selection could very well be playing his last game wearing purple this weekend, and that might make a certain amount of sense, but it sure will be sad to see him go.

I’ll have my #56 jersey on as I watch the game today.

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