Leslie Frazier (Paul Jasienski/Getty)
Linebacker E.J. Henderson was the first Viking to be placed on injured reserve, but his loss clearly affected defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.
While the Vikings and their fans are still mourning the 2009 loss of linebacker E.J. Henderson, perhaps the Vikings should be considering themselves fortunate that they have been able to avoid serious injury almost the entire season.
As hard as it might be to believe, Henderson was the first player the Vikings have put on injured reserve all season. They were the last team to have nobody on the I.R., an amazing feat considering nobody else had less than two, and seven teams – Buffalo, Detroit, New Orleans, Baltimore, Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Houston – have had 10 or more players placed on I.R.
Being able to stay healthy has often been the primary difference between being a good team, a mediocre team or a bad team. The Vikings have made the most of staying healthy – Antoine Winfield was the only starter to miss significant time prior to the Henderson injury. The loss of Henderson will have an impact on the Vikings defense, but it seems clear that things could be much worse and that, for the most part, the Vikings have dodged the injury bullet more than any team in the league.
On Thursday, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said he was optimistic about Henderson’s return, but no one has been able to put an expected timetable on it.
“From everything that I’ve been told there is a good chance that he can come back. He’s got a long road ahead of him, which he is well aware of,” Frazier said. “It’s a pretty extensive injury, but there have been others that have made it back in other sports, in hockey, in baseball, and it’s happened in football. So it’s just going to take some time. It’s going to take quite a while, but he can come back.”
Frazier said it will be six weeks before Henderson can put any weight on the leg. The injury to Henderson clearly affect Frazier, who own NFL career was cut short by an injury in the Super Bowl when he played for the 1985 Chicago Bears.
“When I saw him on that ground and I could see him motioning, it almost seemed like he was looking directly at me motioning for me to come and get him,” Frazier said. “It was just extremely hard and it’s hard to deal with, even now, because he was really beginning to play at that E.J. level and doing all of the things that we had grown accustomed to seeing prior to his previous injury. So to find out the extent of it and what it may mean is just very disheartening.”
Frazier said he spoke to Henderson after the surgery and that the linebacker was upbeat.
Although not hit as hard as other teams in terms of season-ending injuries, the Vikings remain the walking wounded heading into Sunday’s game with Cincinnati. Tyrell Johnson missed a second straight day of practice with post-concussion symptoms and it’s looking more and more like rookie Jamarca Sanford will start Sunday.
Adrian Peterson (foot, ankle) and Phil Loadholt (shoulder) returned to practice Thursday on a limited basis after missing Wednesday’s practice.
Percy Harvin missed a second straight day with migraine headaches – a malady he has suffered since childhood. He isn’t expected to miss Sunday’s game unless the headaches persist through the weekend.
No less than nine more Vikings were limited in practice Thursday – Cedric Griffin (neck), Winfield (foot), Steve Hutchinson (shoulder), Bryant McKinnie (ankle), Pat Williams (foot), Anthony Herrera (concussion), Visanthe Shiancoe (ribs), Bernard Berrian (hamstring) and Karl Paymah (knee).
The Bengals have a couple of key injuries in their secondary, as safeties Chris Crocker (ankle) and Kyries Hebert (knee) both missed a second straight day of practice Thursday. The team has already ruled out defensive tackle Domata Peko (knee) and RB Bernard Scott (foot).
Brad Childress said that Napoleon Harris contacted the team after news that Henderson was lost for the season, but the coach was satisfied with the number of linebackers already on the roster. Harris was signed last year after Henderson suffered a season-ending foot injury.