Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Vikings: Erin Henderson leaves no doubt
By Kevin Seifert
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- At about the time the Minnesota Vikings were scheduled to host free agent linebacker Desmond Bishop, the man he would presumably replace at the "Mike" linebacker stood stoically with several reporters and said: "I'm playing the Mike."
And with that, Erin Henderson set the tone for what could be an interesting few days and weeks for the Vikings at a position they have been working all offseason to fill. Henderson got the call to shift inside from his longtime spot on the outside after the Vikings failed to find an answer in the draft, but coach Leslie Frazier has stopped short of committing to him at the position. If Bishop is healthy, which on Monday we identified as the key component of this discussion, it would be hard to argue objectively a strong pursuit.
Henderson, of course, has taken every snap of the offseason in the middle and said no one has spoken to him about additional competition. For what it's worth, he sounded as if he cared deeply about remaining at the position -- manned for many years by his older brother E.J. -- and doesn't consider it interchangeable with his previous role on the outside.
"I have a chance to play 'Mike' right now," Henderson said after the first day of the Vikings' mandatory veteran minicamp. "And I don't see why I would let it slip out of my hands. That's what my mindset is."
Frazier said he didn't want to "verify" reports on Bishop's visit, which were confirmed by Bishop himself, and went on to suggest that most visits are about updating the team's "database" of NFL players. That might be true, but when a player is en route to a visit within hours of his release -- as Bishop was Monday after parting ways with the Green Bay Packers -- it's fair to assume significant interest on both sides.
Once again, Frazier's assessment of Henderson's transition was positive but measured, his observations made in such a way to provide him cover if the Vikings sign Bishop.
"It seems like watching him in the OTAs, some of the things we're asking him to do in pass coverage, that he can handle it," Frazier said. "It seems that way. Now the next step is when we get to training camp to see how he can handle some of the run things that will be required of him."
Again, from a football standpoint, I don't see how anyone could argue against making Bishop the Vikings' middle linebacker and using Henderson and Chad Greenway as the outside linebackers. That's how good Bishop is when he's healthy. But that doesn't mean feelings wouldn't be hurt in the process. Greenway said he hadn't been looped into any of the conversations but said: "As a veteran you have to welcome in guys like that with open arms."
Greenway added: "He's a good player. He's proven that in his career and if that's the direction of the organization, that's the direction we go in the locker room. That's the way it is. You welcome him with open arms and you make him feel welcome because you know he can help you. That's how you win Super Bowls."
Note: Bishop reportedly is also drawing interest from the Kansas City Chiefs, who run a 3-4 and have the obvious connection of general manager John Dorsey, a longtime Packers executive. He is expected to begin a visit there Wednesday.