NEW ORLEANS — Late last week we reported that Vikings middle linebacker E.J. Henderson was expected to miss at least a month after dislocating two toes on his left foot. Turns out the news is much worse.
The Vikings placed Henderson on season-ending injured reserve today, according to people with knowledge of the situation. The exact nature of Henderson’s injury isn’t yet clear but we’ll keep following the situation. Henderson was hurt in the Vikings’ loss at Tennessee on Sept. 28 and had his foot in a protective boot last week.
However, doctors were unable to do a complete examination until the swelling went down. By placing Henderson on IR, the Vikings clear a roster space for left tackle Bryant McKinnie. McKinnie was reinstated by the NFL last Monday after serving his four-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy but the Vikings were given a one-week roster exemption for him.
Henderson’s loss is a significant one for a Vikings defense that is rated sixth in the NFL entering tonight’s game against the Saints. Henderson led the team with 36 tackles and also had a sack, three tackles for loss, three quarterback hurries and two passes broken up in the first four games.
Last season Henderson returned to the middle linebacker spot after two seasons playing on the outside and played so well many felt he deserved to go to the Pro Bowl. That did not happen but Henderson was voted the team’s defensive MVP after recording a career-high 155 tackles, 4.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss. He also tied his career-high with 19 quarterback hurries.
Henderson, a man of few words who isn’t known for being a rah-rah type of guy, had emerged as a leader and was voted the Vikings’ defensive captain by his teammates before the season.
With Henderson out, second-year player David Herron is expected to take his place in the middle — at least for the short term. The Vikings will need to examine their options and could consider moving Ben Leber from the weak-side to the middle. The team also had former Viking Dontarrious Thomas in for a workout last week. Thomas was considered the Vikings top backup at all three linebacker positions last season but left in free agency to sign with San Francisco. The 49ers, however, cut Thomas before the season started.