Coming back from a season-ending injury is one thing. Coming back from season ending injuries in consecutive years is another. And coming back to play at the same (high) level you did prior to those injuries is nothing short of rare.
But that’s what we’re seeing from Vikings LB E.J. Henderson, who lost his 2008 season to a foot injury in Week 4 and then suffered a serious leg injury during Week 13 of the 2009 season.
In spite of those injuries, though, Henderson is back in the middle of the Vikings defense and he’s fresh off his best game since that foot injury in 2008. He grabbed 2 INTs off Cowboys QB Tony Romo, the second of which led the Ryan Longwell’s game-winning FG, and he added 9 tackles for extra measure.
Asked about his middle LB after Sunday’s game, Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress told reporters that he doesn’t notice any hitch in Henderson’s step following leg injuries in consecutive seasons.
“I don’t see him take many missteps at all,” Childress explained. “I think he disguises well. I think he’s showing up in the run game well. I think he’s obviously showing up in the pass game well. I don’t see him taking a backwards step.”
Henderson, a team captain and defensive leader, is 2nd on the team in tackles with 45 and his mere presence makes a huge difference. Fellow LB Ben Leber was asked about Henderson’s outstanding performance and what it means to the defense.
“I think everything is a little extra special when you see him out there playing,” Leber said. “For everything he has been through in the offseason and the work that he put in, it is great to see him out there again.”
DT Kevin Williams, another defensive leader and team captain, came into the NFL with Henderson. Both players were drafted in 2003 – Williams with the #9 overall selection and Henderson with a 2nd-round choice. Williams noted the importance of Henderson’s INTs and also commented on what it meant emotionally to see his friend playing at a high level again.
“That was huge,” Williams said. “For him to go through what he went through last year and to get two big picks down on our end of the field and help our offense get points, it was tremendous for him and it was great to see it.”
While his teammates were glad to see him tally a couple INTs and help guide the team to victory, Henderson was pleased the defense as a whole contributed to the win and capitalized on opportunities, which assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier emphasizes.
“I hope so,” Henderson responded when asked if his play provided an emotional lift to the team on Sunday. “Like I said, anytime a defensive player makes a big play we hope we can lift the offense. We always pride ourselves on being the ones that can win games. Coach (Leslie) Frazier has talked to us about that all the time and I am glad we did it [Sunday].”
Tags: Ben Leber, E.J. Henderson, Kevin Williams, Leslie Frazier
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 11 Comments »