EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Even if Audie Cole hadn't played so well this past Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, the Vikings might have decided not to start linebacker Erin Henderson this week against the Chicago Bears. Henderson, who was arrested on Nov. 19 for possession of a controlled substance and a probable cause DWI, missed three days of practice and the Packers game for what both the linebacker and coach Leslie Frazier called a personal matter, and sounded on Wednesday like he needed to take a step back from football.
Henderson said the organization had given him the "tools and resources to ... become the person I know I can be going forward," and later added, "[It's] just to deal with life, man.
"Just to deal with the whole life process and dealing with, like I said, the stress and pressure of playing in the NFL, coming in here and fighting for your job day in and day out and what goes with that and what comes along with that. I have a family at home that I have to support and take care of. They’ve done a good job of giving me the chance to reach out to some people and talk to some people who understand better than I do what’s happening and what’s going on that will help me in the future.”
The Vikings, though, might be able to take a slower approach with Henderson in light of what Cole did against the Packers, registering 13 combined tackles, a sack and three quarterback hits. He'll start at middle linebacker again on Sunday, coach Leslie Frazier said, and while Henderson will play, he'll go into the game as Cole's backup.
"Audie earned, from my perspective along with our coaches, the right to start this ballgame," Frazier said. "Based on his performance on Sunday, he did a very, very good job, had an excellent week of practice as well. As the week went on, I was saying to the coaches, ‘The way he practiced, I’m really curious to see how he plays.’ And then he went out and he performed very, very well.
"And we came back on Monday, looked at the tape and verified some of the things that we saw in the game. And you say, ‘How do you just sit this guy down and not give him a chance to show if he can continue this?’ So we made the decision based on the way he performed, and we’ll get a chance to see him play this Sunday and see how he does.”
Frazier said he wouldn't use Henderson at weakside linebacker -- his old position -- on Sunday, but I'll be curious to see how the Vikings move forward at linebacker if Cole continues to play well. Henderson had been serviceable this season after moving over from outside linebacker, and seemed to take quite a bit of pride in playing the spot where his older brother E.J. reached the Pro Bowl. But the Vikings have hardly come up with a good solution at Henderson's old spot, and it could turn out their best move is to put him back there.
"I've been in this situation, as far as not having to be a starter but having to be ready and prepared as if I am one," Henderson said. "So right now my job is to make sure I help the team as much as possible. If that means giving Audie whatever I have in my brain and whatever I know in my head that may help him be successful out there on the football field and help this team, then that’s what I’ll do.”