StarTribune.com

September 2006


Leber practices, status does not change

Friday, September 29th, 2006

Linebacker Ben Leber took part in today’s practice but remains questionable on the Vikings’ injury for Sunday’s game in Buffalo because of a sprained knee.

Nose tackle Pat Williams (sprained ankle/foot) was upgraded to probable and running back Chester Taylor (ankle) remained probable. That means it’s a virtual certainty those two will play.

Rookie quarterback Tarvaris Jackson (knee) was downgraded to out but that comes as no surprise. Safety Darren Sharper will be the emergency quarterback in Buffalo. Although the Vikings signed Drew Henson this week, the quarterback is on the practice squad and won’t travel with the team to Buffalo.

Taylor added to injury report

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

Running back Chester Taylor has an ankle injury that caused him to miss part of Thursday’s practice and thus be added to the injury report. Taylor, though, is listed as probable so there is little doubt that he will be good to go Sunday in Buffalo. These days probable means it’s a “virtual certainty,” a player will play.

The rest of the Vikings injury report remained unchanged: Tarvaris Jackson (knee) is doubtful; linebacker Ben Leber (ankle) is questionable; and nose tackle Pat Williams (ankle) is questionable. Best guess is Leber is held out and Williams plays.

The Bills injury report looks like this: Safety Matt Bowen (shin) is questionable; linebacker Takeo Spikes (hamstring) is questionable; and cornerback Kiwaukee Thomas (back) is questionable.

Leber watches from sideline

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

Strong-side linebacker Ben Leber did not take part in practice for a second consecutive day. Leber seemed confident Wednesday that he will play Sunday against Buffalo but that appears to be a long shot.

Wednesday and Thursday are a team’s most important days of preparation and missing both practices usually means you don’t play. It appears that Dontarrious Thomas will start at strong-side linebacker against the Bills.

Also on the injury front, nose tackle Pat Williams took part in practice but had his sprained ankle/foot wrapped. Williams was moving rather gingerly during the individual drills.

Defensive tackle Kevin Williams, meanwhile, returned to practice after being excused Wednesday for personal reasons.

A short stay for Drew?

Wednesday, September 27th, 2006

The Vikings made an interesting move by signing former Cowboys quarterback Drew Henson to their practice squad Wednesday. One figures the relationship will end when Tarvaris Jackson is ready to return from a knee injury. That, however, is only an assumption.

Remember, Vikings coach Brad Childress prides himself on his work with quarterbacks and maybe he sees something in Henson he likes. Childress isn’t afraid to make a roster move and juggle things, so if he feel Henson can help long term it might not be a given that the one-time Michigan standout will be jettisoned when Jackson is ready.

If nothing else, this seems like a very smart move by Henson. A flop in Dallas, there were other NFL teams interested in the 26-year-old. He worked out for Miami this week. As a member of the Vikings practice squad, though, Henson will get an opportunity to fly below radar and try to restore the confidence he lost in Dallas.

Henson, who left college early to pursue a career in big-league baseball, decided to return to football in 2004, amid much fanfare. Henson’s rights were owned by Houston because the Texans had selected him in the sixth-round of the 2002 draft. But the Texans already had David Carr at quarterback and dealt Henson to the Dallas Cowboys for a third-round draft pick.

He signed an eight-year contract that included $3.5 million in guaranteed money and plenty of expectations. The guaranteed cash was the most ever given a sixth-round pick. In two seasons with the Cowboys, Henson got into seven games (all in 2004) and completed 10 of 18 passes for 78 yards and a touchdown. His only start came on Thanksgiving Day of 2004 in place of the injured Vinny Testaverde. However, Henson was replaced by Testaverde at halftime of that game.

Henson was the Cowboys’ No. 3 quarterback for all 16 games last season, meaning he was on the inactive list. Cowboys coach Bill Parcells decided to cut him in late August, keeping Matt Baker as his No. 3 quarterback behind Drew Bledsoe and Tony Romo. According to reports, Dallas did shop Henson but found no takers.

“I don’t keep players that I don’t think can play for us,” Parcells told the Associated Press in August. “We tried very diligently with this guy.”

Obviously, Dallas liked Henson at one time and the guess here is the Vikings think they can get far more out of him than the Cowboys did. In Henson’s case, though, being in an environment with little to no pressure might be the key.

“It didn’t workout for him for whatever reason in Dallas,” Childress said. “But he’s got a strong arm, he’s big in stature and he’s got a good mind. He’s very smart, very intelligent.”

The 6-4, 235-pound Henson also has shown a desire to improve. He played in NFL Europe this spring with the Rhein Fire but suffered a knee injury in the season’s seventh week. He finished the NFLE season as the league’s second-rated quarterback (84.2) and was second in attempts (203), completions (109) and yards (1,321). He tied for the second-most touchdowns (10).

Most football fans remember Henson from his three seasons at Michigan. During that time, he completed 214 of 374 passes for 2,946 yards and 24 touchdowns. His passer rating was the fifth best in school history. Henson left Michigan after his junior season to sign a six-year, $17 million deal with the Yankees. The third baseman was called up to the big leagues in September of 2002 and 2003. He was 1-for-9 in eight big-league games.

Henson signs and other items

Wednesday, September 27th, 2006

The Vikings have signed quarterback Drew Henson to their practice squad. The Vikings wanted to add a third quarterback after Tarvaris Jackson was lost for about month because of a knee injury.

Henson will step in and help take some of the practice reps away from Brad Johnson and Brooks Bollinger. Vikings coach Brad Childress has known Henson since he was a kid.

“My wife used to babysit Drew Henson in Salt Lake City,” Vikings coach Brad Childress said. “Dan Henson was the offensive coordinator when I worked there at the University of Utah. I said [to Drew Henson] last night, ‘How old would you have been then?’ I think he told me the fifth grade. I’ve kind of known him for a while.”

Henson, a former University of Michigan quarterback, spent the past two seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. He was released by Dallas in August.

Henson elected to play baseball over football in 2001, signing with the New York Yankees. He decided to return to football in 2004, getting an eight-year deal from the Dallas Cowboys that included $3.5 million in guaranteed money.

He played in seven games with Dallas that season, completing 10 of 18 passes for 78 yards. Henson did not see any action with the Cowboys in 2005.

Henson had a workout with the Miami Dolphins this week. Guard C.J. Brooks was released to make room for Henson on the practice squad.

Other items of interest:

– Linebacker Ben Leber continues to get treatment for a sprained left knee suffered Sunday against Chicago. He wasn’t on the practice field today and probably will be listed as questionable when the injury report comes out later this afternoon.

– Nose tackle Pat Williams continues to receive treatment for an ankle/foot sprain but was practicing today.

– Defensive tackle Kevin Williams was excused from today’s practice for personal reasons, according to a team spokesman.

– Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson is rehabbing from the knee surgery he had Monday. Jackson was at Winter Park on Wednesday and was off crutches, according to Childress.

Sound familiar?

Wednesday, September 27th, 2006

The Vikings aren’t the only team coming off a game in which it struggled with turnovers and troubles inside and near the red zone. Minnesota’s opponent this Sunday, the Buffalo Bills, didn’t do much better in their 28-20 loss to the New York Jets.

The Bills scored only one touchdown in four trips inside the Jets’ 20-yard line. Buffalo also had three turnovers in losing for the second time in three games.

Buffalo is 25th in the NFL with three touchdowns in nine trips inside the red zone; the Vikings have scored two touchdowns in eight trips, placing them in a three-way tie for 27th in the NFL in red-zone efficiency. Denver and Kansas City also are operating at 25 percent clip.

According to the Buffalo News, one of the big problems was that the Bills offensive line had several breakdowns and that forced J.P. Losman to scramble. Losman still finished with 328 passing yards, the most by a Bills QB since Drew Bledsoe threw for 328 on Dec. 8, 2002 against New England.

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