With E.J. Henderson out for the season because of a foot injury, Napoleon Harris
is expected to be the Vikings' starting middle linebacker for the remainder of the season.
Harris played that role for the Vikings in 2006 but left after the season to sign as a free agent with Kansas City. Henderson then moved from the outside into the middle. But things did not work out for Harris with the Chiefs and he was released this month.
The Vikings quickly signed him and three days later he played extensively in the Vikings' 48-41 loss on Oct. 19 in Chicago. Harris had the past week to re-familiarize himself with the Minnesota defense because the team had its bye.
Harris is now listed atop the depth chart at middle linebacker. "It's a week-to-week season," Harris said when asked about the job being his. "That's the approach I'm taking. The way I look at it is, if Napoleon Harris does his job, Napoleon Harris will be the guy who's in there. I'm planning on doing my job."
Coach Brad Childress said Harris "looks comfortable" at this point. "I think it's come back to him relatively quickly," Childress said. "It doesn't hurt that he knows the scheme, the coach and understands some of the coaching points. He's not hearing it for the first time, so he has pretty good recall."
Harris should be much more prepared to play Sunday after having more time to study.
"It wasn't like I was unsure of myself (against Chicago)," he said. "But being a new guy coming into a situation, I didn't want to be the guy to let the other guys down. If I was going to make a mistake, I was going to make it being in the right gap and being where I'm supposed to be, but maybe not as fast as I would like."
LB Ben Leber has been wearing the defensive communication device in his helmet since E.J. Henderson was injured. Leber is expected to continue wearing the speaker that enables him to get calls from the sideline. Vikings safety Darren Sharper said Leber has more baritone in his voice than Henderson and is louder, which makes it easier for the other defensive players to get the call.
LB David Herron did not practice Wednesday or Thursday and isn't expected to play Sunday against Houston. Herron was injured on Oct. 12 against Detroit and did not play the following week at Chicago. The Vikings had a bye last week.
DE Ray Edwards was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday because of a knee injury suffered at Chicago. He is expected to be able to play against the Texans.
TE Garrett Mills was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday because of an ankle injury suffered at Chicago.
WR Sidney Rice was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday because of a knee injury he has been battling since being hurt in Week 2 against Indianapolis. Rice saw limited action at Chicago but should be ready to get more work this Sunday.
S Madieu Williams was limited Wednesday and Thursday but is expected to make his debut with the Vikings on Sunday after being out since early in training camp because of a neck injury.
Napoleon Harris is expected to assume the starting role at middle linebacker for the rest of the season. After not playing during the first six weeks of the season at Kansas City and being released, Harris is getting more comfortable in his new role with the Vikings.
LB Napoleon Harris is getting more comfortable in his new role with the Vikings.