Younger Henderson looks to make big impact for Vikings

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson runs a drill as part of his rehabilitation during training camp in Mankato.

MANKATO — Erin Henderson has been waiting and waiting for his chance with the Minnesota Vikings. And when camp opened on Monday in Mankato, Henderson was forced to wait some more.

Henderson is beginning his fourth year with the Vikings and with the departure of Ben Leber, he will get a chance to earn a starting spot at outside linebacker in training camp. But as camp opened, Henderson was not allowed to practice with the team.

Because he was brought back as a free agent, the 25-year-old Henderson was caught in a technicality. With the new collective bargaining agreement just being signed less than two weeks ago, free agents weren't allowed to practice with their teams until Aug. 4.

"On Thursday my contract will be official and then I can get out there and play," Henderson said.

Well, Aug. 4 has finally arrived so Henderson is able to practice with the Vikings. And after spending the offseason with no mini-camps or team practices, Henderson is raring to play.


"Probably one of the most frustrating things I've had to deal with in the league," Henderson said. "It's one of those situations where it's nothing I did, right or wrong, but I'm being punished for it while they're trying to figure things out."

Henderson hopes to make an immediate impact on coaches.

"Hopefully I can get back out there with my teammates and show the coaches how hard I worked this offseason," he said.

Henderson worked plenty hard in the offseason. Last year the 6-foot-3 Henderson weighed about 244 pounds. This year he comes to camp trimmer at about 235 pounds.

"I'm lighter, my body fat is down, I feel amazing," Henderson said.

He said not having offseason team functions to attend actually helped him reshape his body.

"That's one of the things that this lockout presented me was a chance for me to get my body where I wanted it to be at," Henderson said.

Henderson's older brother, E.J., is the starting middle linebacker for the Vikings. The younger Henderson said they worked out some together in the offseason, but not always.


"I want to get my power, my flexibility, my explosion back. I had to worry about (myself) and I had to put my workout in front of working out with my brother," Henderson said.

"I did (work out) a little bit with him, but I felt like there were some things I had to work on a personal level and a business level," Henderson added. "I knew what I needed to take care of and get done."

In fact, E.J. also worked out some with Jason Brinkley, who is batting Erin for a starting linebacker position.

The younger Henderson believes this is his time to step up and earn a starting spot. He has been a big contributor on special teams during his first three seasons. But Brinkley saw more playing time a year ago. Henderson was actually inactive for seven of the team's 16 games a year ago. That was one reason he felt the need for the extra work in the offseason.

"I'm just excited to go and show you all how hard I worked out this offseason and kind of show you guys a couple of tricks I've got up my sleeves," he said.

Henderson also believes his body is fresh because he hasn't had a lot of wear and tear during his NFL career.

"I've been waiting a long time for that," Henderson said of starting. "I feel I've prepared myself to the best of my ability. My first three years in the league, I kind of feel like I was redshirted. I kind of feel like they did me a favor when I look at it in hindsight. My body feels fresh, my body feels great."

He said it would also be very special to start alongside his brother.


"I don't know too many four-year players who feel the way I do and have the opportunity I have," Henderson said. "I'm going to take this opportunity and try and run with it."


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