Initial thoughts on Henderson injury

It’s hard to imagine that Minnesota won’t lose middle linebacker E.J. Henderson for the season after he suffered a gruesome injury to his left leg Sunday night in the Vikings’ 30-17 loss at Arizona. A few thoughts if that’s indeed the case:

  • The Vikings made it for most of 12 games last season without Henderson, who suffered a pair of dislocated toes on Sept. 28, 2008. In that instance, they covered themselves by re-signing former starter Napoleon Harris. That’s probably not an option at this point. But importantly, the Vikings were able to scheme some of their calls away from the middle linebacker position to compensate.

  • One way the Vikings did that was by having strong-side linebacker Ben Leber make the defensive calls. Leber has become a part-time player this season as the Vikings have emphasized their nickel package, but they could re-engineer their scheme to get him on the field more or slide him into the middle linebacker spot.

  • Sunday night, rookie Jasper Brinkley replaced Henderson. But the Vikings have some other options. One is special teams ace Heath Farwell, a fifth-year player who is much smaller than Brinkley but has more experience.

Henderson was not the only defensive starter the Vikings lost Sunday night. Cornerback Cedric Griffin (head) and safety Tyrell Johnson (uncertain) also left the game in the second half. On the Cardinals’ final drive, in fact, the Vikings had three rookies on the field: Brinkley, cornerback Asher Allen and safety Jamarca Sanford.

We’ll get you updates as soon as we can.