Broken leg, healthy spirit
MANKATO — E.J. Henderson was one of the first Vikings players to arrive for training camp Thursday afternoon. Given his self-described "journey" the past seven months, it's not surprising that Henderson was eager to get things going.
"Anxious to get back out there," he said. "Get back in the swing of the things. Participate in a full practice. Participate in a two-a-day. Just getting back to being a middle linebacker."
That process could come as early as Friday when the Vikings hold their first practice of training camp. In what would be an emotional moment for Henderson and the team, the defensive captain hopes to practice for the first time since suffering a fractured left femur Dec. 6 at Arizona.
Coach Brad Childress said this week that Henderson might be cleared to practice and not open camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Childress and Henderson discussed the situation on Wednesday, but Henderson said they did not make a decision.
Henderson hopes to get clearance from Childress and the medical staff after relentlessly pushing himself through seven months of rehab.
"Of course, the decision is his," Henderson said. "Hopefully we're leaning toward starting off slow and gradually increase the work that I'll do. That's what I would like. It's up to him and the trainers what we do."
The injury was so severe that some wondered whether he would be able to play again. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said this spring that he was told it might take a year before Henderson could return.
But Henderson, who had a titanium rod placed in his leg during surgery, said he turned a corner physically a few months ago and hasn't wavered in his determination to be ready for camp and the season opener Sept. 9 at New Orleans. He said he might wear bigger thigh pads, but he doesn't require any special protection on his leg.
"It's definitely exciting to be back out here," he said. "It's been a long seven months. But then again it's only seven months. ... I just look at it as a little journey I took. Seven months and I'm back at it."
As gruesome as the injury looked -- several teammates were in tears in the locker room after the game -- Henderson said his rehab from a back injury in college was just as difficult.
"I would definitely put it in the same classification," he said. "But it was a clean break [of the femur]. I've got a titanium rod in there so it's not like anything is going to happen to it. In that aspect it was a little easier."
He realizes he also faces a mental hurdle. He brings energy to the defense with his high-intensity, aggressive play. He said he won't allow a broken leg to alter his approach.
"I feel anxious, ready to get out there, ready to cut it loose," he said. "With this femur injury, it's not like I have a pain afterwards or lingering effects. It's healed. It feels good. I think once I get back out there and get in the swing of things, catch up on some reps, I'll be ready to go."