Current Vikings Set To Support E.J. Henderson’s “Adopt-A-Family” Holiday Event

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 18, 2012 – 6:53 am

E.J. Henderson is no longer chasing quarterbacks and tackling running backs for the Vikings, but he continues to make a difference in the Minnesota community. Henderson, a standout for the Vikings defense from 2004-2011, will be joined by several current Vikings on Tuesday evening to bring smiles to the faces of 36 local families.

Jared Allen, Jasper Brinkley, Fred Evans and Kevin Williams will brighten the Holiday season for the families by taking them on a shopping spree at the downtown Minneapolis Target store. This is the fourth annual E.J. Henderson Youth Foundation-sponsored event, and it’s the third time that Allen has supported Henderson’s event.

While a player for the Vikings, Henderson was one of the organization’s most community-conscious player and in 2010 he was named the Vikings Community Man of the Year.

About the E.J. Henderson Youth Foundation
The E.J. Henderson Youth Foundation (EJHYF) is a 501(c)(3) organization that serves urban youth in the Twin Cities area.  The mission of the E.J. Henderson Youth Foundation is to provide opportunity and encouragement to urban youth through academic, life skills and athletic programs developing each student in mind, body and soul.  The EJHYF’s goal is to provide youth with the skills to become responsible members of their communities and find success in their future.  The organization uses a three-prong approach that emphasizes the importance of strong Mind, Body and Soul.

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Still Available: 10 Free Agent Possibilities For The Vikings

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 19, 2012 – 6:38 am

On Friday we discussed the possibility of the Vikings visiting with a pair of free agents in OL Geoff Schwartz and DB Alan Ball. On Sunday we took a look at whether or not former Colts DB Melvin Bullitt was a good fit in Minnesota. Both discussions generated plenty chatter in the comments section, so let’s keep it going with more free agency talk.

Below is a list of 10 available unrestricted free agents that I’ll be keeping my eye on this week as the second wave of free agency begins. I’ve also left a comment or two on each player. Let us know which free agents you’d like to see the Vikings consider by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below this entry…

CB Aaron Ross – Already a two-time Super Bowl winner, Ross was not retained by the NY Giants and he remains available for CB-needy teams. This is not a news flash, but the Vikings need more CBs. The 6-0, 197-pound CB is a touch older than a team rebuilding would prefer (he turns 30 in September), but he has experience playing in big games and he’s a guy you can rely on while playing man coverage. Given how much money teams are spending on free agents this year and the fact that Ross has two Super Bowl rings, his price tag might be inflated enough to scare the Vikings away, and that would be understandable. If that doesn’t happen, though, he’s an option I’d be interested in seeing the Vikings pursue. Ross was a 1st-round pick out of Texas of the NY Giants in 2007.

Ross signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars

CB Tracy Porter – The same price-tag related reservation I have about Ross applies in Porter’s case because he’s a former Super Bowl-champion as well and his value could be inflated because of that. If he can be had at a reasonable price, though, I’m interested. He’ll be just 27 in August and he has good size (5-11, 188 pounds) for his position. I’m not sure he’s as physical a player as you’d like, but he can play man coverage and he’s played well in big spots. Porter was a 2nd-round pick of the Saints in 2008.

WR Ted Ginn – He’d solve any question about the kickoff and punt return role for the Vikings because he’s one of the two or three best returners in the NFL. One concern in adding Ginn, though, is finding a way for him to contribute on offense. Measuring in at 5-10, 180 pounds, Ginn doesn’t play the position with physicality and he’s had just 12 and 19 receptions in the past two seasons with San Francisco. Another concern is health, as he missed time in last year’s playoffs with a leg injury. If his leg injury is sufficiently healed and if the Vikings feel they can use him efficiently on offense, Ginn might be an interesting addition to the team, most notably for his return ability.

DT Pat Sims – Admittedly, I don’t know a whole lot about Sims and the skill set he possesses. But I do know he’s available, and that he measures in at 6-2, 330 pounds. Those dimensions make it possible that he could fill the spot opposite Kevin Williams on the Vikings interior defensive line, though it’s also possible he was more of a 3-technique (Kevin Williams’ position) with his former team, the Cincinnati Bengals. There’s also something to be said for not worrying about the distinction between the Kevin Williams-type DT position and the Pat Williams-type DT position, and instead focusing on the fact that Sims might be a good football player regardless. I don’t know if he is, but he’s a free agent coming off his rookie contract and he plays DT, so I’m interested. Sims was a 3rd-round pick in 2008 out of Auburn.

S Reggie Smith – There’s nothing in Smith’s background that will make fans jump out of their skin at the thought of adding him to this roster, but he does play a position of need and he fits the mold of a typical Rick Spielman free agent signing – coming off his rookie contract, ascending career arc and looking to prove himself as a capable starter in the NFL. Smith was a 3rd-round pick of San Francisco in 2008 and he began his career as a CB. He then converted to safety in 2009, started 7 games at safety in 2010, and was a reserve in 2011. He stands at 6-1, 200 pounds, will turn just 26 in September, and played college football at Oklahoma.

LB EJ Henderson – A leader and major contributor on the Vikings defense for years, it’s hard to imagine life without Henderson in the middle. But maybe we won’t have to imagine that for another year. Right now Henderson is on the market, but if he doesn’t find an attractable enough offer with another team, it’s possible he and the Vikings could reunite for another season while Jasper Brinkley and any other middle LB the Vikings acquire through the draft or free agency develop.

Others to consider…
Former Seattle Seahawks LB David Hawthorne and former Atlanta Falcons LB Curtis Lofton are two of the best unrestricted free agents remaining, but I believe they’ll command a salary too high for the Vikings. While the Vikings could find a way to put either under contract, I’m not convinced it’s a sound economical approach to improving the roster. The money required to sign one of either Hawthorne or Lofton could be used to extend a player currently under contract with the Vikings (WR Percy Harvin, perhaps) or it could be used to acquire multiple players that could address multiple needs on the roster.

Another LB to consider is former Detroit LionsLB Stephen Tulloch. He could play middle LB in the Vikings defense finds itself in a place where Henderson is not asked to return and Brinkley is not ready to assume a starting role. Once again, price tag could be an issue here. But Tulloch has good upside, will be just 27 years old this season and is a proven productive player in the NFL.

Tullock re-signed with Detroit

CB William Gay has not been retained by the Pittsburgh Steelers and could make for a nice option in Minnesota. The 27-year old 5-10, 190-pound CB was an important part of the Steelers defense, but you have to wonder if his solid play was the product of the system and talent around him. I’m not paid to make those decisions, but someone is and if Gay is deemed to be a quality player in coverage, he could be an option for the Vikings in the second or third wave of free agency.

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Near-Flawless Brees Propels Saints To 42-20 Win Over Vikings

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 18, 2011 – 4:16 pm

Drew Brees is one of the best QBs in the NFL, and the Vikings saw the reasons why first-hand on Sunday at Mall of America Field. Sitting atop the NFC South standings and still in the hunt for the NFC’s #2 playoff seed, the Saints put together a 42-20 victory over the Vikings behind a 412-yard, 5-TD performance from Brees.

The game was not lopsided from the beginning, however, because the Vikings came out looking ready to give the Saints all they could handle. New Orleans won the toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff, but just 3 plays into the drive the Vikings recovered a fumble and were already in scoring range. In what would become a theme of the game for the Vikings, though, the offense couldn’t muster any production and Ryan Longwell came on to salvage a score with a 44-yard FG.

The teams exchanged punts later in the 1st quarter, but on his 3rd trip to the field, Brees started putting the pieces together. He led the Saints on a 10-play, 84-yard scoring drive to take a 7-3 on a 5-yard scoring pass to WR Lance Moore. The Vikings hung tough in the 1st half – Longwell hit a 49-yard FG in the 2nd quarter and Christian Ponder found Toby Gerhart for a 10-yard score later in the quarter – and at halftime the Saints held a 21-13 lead.

Even so, Brees was already 20 of 24 for 247 yards and 3 TDs, and it was apparent that he and the Saints offense were in great position to take advantage of an injury-ravaged Vikings secondary. And it didn’t take long for that negative outcome to unfold, as Brees needed just 4 plays on the Saints first drive of the 3rd quarter to toss his 4th TD of the game, this one to backup TE John Gilmore.

The Vikings offense just couldn’t respond, and after going 3-and-out the Vikings watched Brees and Co. score another TD on a 3-play, 53-yard drive. The TD was a 47-yard pass to Moore, which was the 5th TD pass of the day for Brees. At that point the score was 35-13 in favor of the Saints and the situation looked dire for the Vikings.

There was no improbable comeback in the cards for the Vikings this week. The Vikings offense had only 3 of their 12 drives go over 6 plays, and for the game the Vikings netted just 207 yards and 12 first downs. The Saints, by contrast, totaled 573 yards, were 8 of 11 on 3rd down and picked up 36 first downs. Brees found 9 different targets in the passing game and spread his 5 TD passes out to 4 different receivers. This was Brees line in the post-game box score: 32 of 40 for 412 yards, with 5 TDs and no INTs for a passer rating of 149.2.

New Orleans was also efficient on the ground, rushing for 161 yards on 38 carries (4.2 yards per rush).

The Vikings scored a late TD – another Ponder-to-Gerhart connection – to push their score to 20 points, but a bevy of mistakes by several parts of the offense led to an unproductive day overall. In his return to action from an ankle injury that cost him 3 games, Peterson ran for 60 yards on 10 carries, including a 39-yard dash. Gerhart led the club in receiving with 4 receptions for 46 yards, while Percy Harvin was held in check by the Saints defense (3 receptions, 8 yards).

LBs E.J. Henderson and Chad Greenway led the club in tackles, with 11 and 10, respectively. No one was able to sack Drew Brees and in amazing fashion, the play-by-play post-game stats show that the Vikings had just one tackle for loss (E.J. Henderson recorded it).

The loss drops the Vikings to 2-12 on the season, and now they’ll prepare on a short week for a road game against the Washington Redskins on Christmas Eve.

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Peterson Limited, Ponder Full Participant In Wednesday Practice

Posted by Mike Wobschall on December 14, 2011 – 3:20 pm

The Vikings returned to the practice field on Wednesday morning as they begin on-field preparations for the New Orleans Saints. And with the return to the practice field comes the return of injury reports. It’s mostly good news for the Vikings on the week’s first injury report.

The only player who did not participate in practice was WR Greg Camarillo, who was held out with concussion-like symptoms. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said Camarillo came to the team with the symptoms on Tuesday, and he also said that Camarillo will be evaluated throughout the week.

Limited in practice for the Vikings on Wednesday were E.J. Henderson (shoulder), S Jarrad Page (hip) and RB Adrian Peterson (ankle). Frazier that Peterson looks to be much improved from even a week ago and it seems as if the team is optimistic that their star running back will be able to return on Sunday. CB Asher Allen (shoulder) and QB Christian Ponder (hip) were also on the injury report, but both were fall participants and are expected to play on Sunday.

For the Saints, the following players were held out of practice: RB Mark Ingram (toe), LB Jonathan Casillas (knee) and LB Jonathan Vilma (knee). Limited in practice was DE Turk McBride (ankle) and full participants in practice were CB Tracy Porter (wrist), DT Sedrick Ellis (hamstring), TE Jimmy Graham (back) and LB Scott Shanle (shoulder).

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Recent History Suggests There Is Still Plenty On The Line For Vikings

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 30, 2011 – 10:22 am

Sitting at 2-9 and with plenty of shortcomings suppressing the team’s ability to display improvement, many are inclined to castaway the Vikings final 5-game stretch of the 2011 season as a meaningless period of time. But a quick stroll down memory lane suggests that there still is plenty on the line for the Vikings as they begin the final stretch of the season, a stretch that includes 3 of the final 5 games at home.

In the 2002 season, which was Mike Tice’s first full season as Head Coach, the Vikings limped out of the gates to a 0-4 start and eventually wound up sitting at 3-10 after 13 weeks. But, just as Leslie Frazier’s team has done this year, that Vikings team didn’t quit on the season. They finished strong by collecting wins in their final 3 contests, knocking two teams – the New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins – out of playoff contention along the way.

The benefit of playing hard and not surrendering at the end of the 2002 season paid dividends even in 2003 for the Vikings. With the 9th overall pick in the 2003 draft, the Vikings selected DT Kevin Williams, and then in the 2nd round they pounced on LB E.J. Henderson. Add WR Nate Burleson (3rd round) to a mix that also included Matt Birk, Cory Chavous, Daunte Culpepper, Jim Kleinsasser and Randy Moss, and the Vikings were off to a 6-0 start the following season.

Had the Vikings simply given up at the end of the 2002 season, would the same events have unfolded? Perhaps. But probably not. If the Vikings continue to play hard for the final 5 games of this season and find a way to rattle off a few wins, will the same kind of success follow in 2012? It’s not a guarantee, but it only increases the probability.

The point is not to sweep the underachieving results of 2011 under the rug. No one, from people within Winter Park to the passionate fans that allocate their time, emotion and money to the team, expected or deems acceptable the results of this season. But the key for the Vikings now is not what happened earlier. The key is to fix it and make sure the 2012 season is as exciting as the 2011 season was disappointing.

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Attend This Week’s Taping of “Vikings GamePlan” at the Sports Authority in Minnetonka with E.J. and Erin Henderson

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on November 28, 2011 – 2:50 pm

Most weeks, “Vikings GamePlan” is filmed at Sports Authority Studios in the basement of Winter Park.  However, this week’s show will be taped on Thursday, Dec. 1 at the Sports Authority store in Minnetonka (click here for directions), with E.J. and Erin Henderson as the special guests.

The taping will get underway at 6:30 p.m., and then from 7 to 7:30 p.m., fans will have a chance to get autographs from both E.J. and Erin.  In addition, Sports Authority and the Vikings will be giving away lower-level tickets to the Sunday, Dec. 18 game at Mall of America Field vs. the New Orleans Saints.

And if you can’t make the taping, make sure to watch “Vikings GamePlan” each Sunday at 10 a.m. on KARE 11 in the Twin Cities, and on Fox Sports North at 10:30 a.m.  Fans can also watch episodes online by clicking here.

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Game Tied 14-14 At Halftime After Late Peterson TD

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 30, 2011 – 12:44 pm

The Carolina Panthers were driving late in the 2nd quarter in an attempt to build a 21-7 halftime lead, but Jared Allen and Adrian Peterson had other ideas. Allen got to Carolina QB Cam Newton for a strip-sack, allowing the Vikings to take possession inside Carolina territory.

A couple plays later, Ponder dumped off a pass to Peterson and #28 sprinted away from the Panthers defense for a 19-yard score. Peterson now had 3 career receiving TDs and Allen has at least a .5 sack in 10 consecutive games. Allen also recovered a fumble early in the 1st quarter that was forced by E.J. Henderson.

Christian Ponder is 8 of 12 for 135 yards with 1 TD. Percy Harvin has 3 carries for 16 yards and a TD. For Carolina, QB Cam Newton is 11 of 17 for 152 yards and 2 TDs. The Panthers are rushing the ball well against Minnesota, with 97 yards on 17 carries.

The game is tied 14-14 going into halftime.

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Vikings Gear Up For Sunday Night Spotlight

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 14, 2011 – 8:08 am

The Vikings halted a 4-game losing streak in 2011 last week by defeating the Arizona Cardinals. This week the Vikings will look to halt another losing streak, as they travel to the Windy City for a bout with the Chicago Bears on NBC’s Sunday Night Football (SNF).

It’s always fun to play in primetime, but it hasn’t been much fun for the Vikings and their fans of late. Discounting the Vikings Tuesday night victory over the Philadelphia Eagles at the end of last season, the Vikings have lost their previous 7 primetime games, including losses in their last 3 SNF games.

But now is as good a time as any for the Vikings to reverse their fortunes. The Vikings are 15-15 all-time on SNF, including a 6-8 record on the road. But, against the Bears on SNF, the Vikings are 5-2. In fact, the Vikings last win on SNF came against…you guessed it, the Chicago Bears, via a 34-14 decision at Mall of America Field in November of 2008. It’s actually the Vikings only win on SNF since NBC took over its broadcasting rights.

You can count Vikings LB and defensive team captain E.J. Henderson as one who looks forward to playing in the spotlight of Sunday Night Football.

“Definitely nothing like that,” Henderson told us earlier this week. “Everybody across the country gets to check you out. Put on your best game face, give your best performance. Everybody in your home town, your family [will be watching]. You’re the only game on, so it’s definitely exciting.”

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No Surprises On Vikings Injury Report

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 12, 2011 – 2:47 pm

The Vikings and Chicago Bears each issued their first injury reports of the week on Wednesday. For the Vikings, there were no surprises. Here are the details…

CB Antoine Winfield, who missed last week’s game against the Arizona Cardinals with a neck injury, has been improving in recent days but did not participate in practice on Wednesday. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Winfield limited in practice or even sit out on Thursday, but perhaps he’ll see some action on Friday and have a chance to suit up on Sunday night.

Players limited in practice on Wednesday for the Vikings were WR Percy Harvin (ribs), LB E.J. Henderson (knee) and LB Kenny Onatolu (hamstring). S Husain Abdullah (pelvis) and DE Jared Allen (eye) were full participants.

For the Bears, DE Julius Peppers (knee) missed practice, as did WR Earl Bennett (chest), OT Gabe Carimi (knee) and DT Matt Toeaina. CB Charles Tillman (knee) was limited and DE Corey Wooten (hand) was a full participant.

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Frazier Pleased With Erin Henderson’s Performance In Increased Role

Posted by Mike Wobschall on October 6, 2011 – 6:50 am

The Vikings identified Erin Henderson very early as the top candidate to fill the starting outside LB job vacated by Ben Leber’s departure via free agency, and Henderson has come through for the club by performing well through the season’s first 4 games.

Against the San Diego Chargers in Week 1, his first career NFL start, Henderson got to QB Philip Rivers and registered his first career sack; he also had 7 tackles. Last week in Kansas City, Henderson was 2nd on the defense with 9 tackles, which was also a career high for him. In total, Henderson has 20 tackles, 1.0 sack and 1 pass defensed through the first 4 games.

You can’t help but to be excited for Henderson as he progresses into an NFL starter. He originally made the Vikings roster as an undrafted free agent in 2009, became a steady contributor on special teams early in his career, and now is the team’s regular starter at outside LB. The latest significant step in Henderson’s development came last week, when he stepped into the role of a nickel LB in place of his brother, E.J. Henderson, who is dealing with a sore knee.

In the Vikings nickel package, one of the starting LBs is replaced by a DB. Up until last week, it was Erin Henderson who came off the field. But the Vikings wanted to reduce the amount of snaps E.J. played because of the sore knee, so they inserted Erin into the lineup. After watching film of Sunday’s game, Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier sounded pleased with how Erin performed.

“I thought he did a good job, considering the amount of time he has had to play that position,” Frazier said. “He did a really good job for us and he should continue to improve. The health of EJ Henderson will determine how much more Erin will play in that role, but it was good to see him come out and really do a good job. It lets us know, that if things continue to go as they are with EJ, that we have a guy that can handle that position.”

As for E.J., it sounds like the Vikings plan to reduce his snaps last week is working so far. He was able to practice on a limited basis on Wednesday, whereas last week on Wednesday he was a non-participant.

“He was much better, to the point where we are going to let him do a few things [Wednesday],” Frazier said. “So that was encouraging; I think we did the right thing by taking some snaps off of him during that game.”

The Vikings also did the right thing by tabbing Erin Henderson as a starting outside LB.

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