Defensive end re-injures left knee after year of rehab

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- What already had been a difficult
week for the Minnesota Vikings defensive line got even tougher on
Friday when end Erasmus James was placed on injured reserve for the
second time in the last 14 months.

The 18th overall selection in the 2005 draft will need surgery
again to repair the ACL in his left knee.

James, injured early in Sunday's game against Detroit, first
tore his left ACL in Week 2 last season. He missed the rest of the
year and a good portion of 2007 working his way back into shape.

After several setbacks, it appeared he was back on track when he
finally reclaimed his starting spot at left defensive end against
the Lions. Minnesota coach Brad Childress said James "had an
episode" on the third or fourth play of the game but was able to
finish. An MRI revealed the injury.

Childress said it was tough to see James injured so quickly
after a long and arduous rehab.

"He just kept pushing and pushing and pushing through there,"
Childress said. "He was to the point where he could put it on the
field and bring it pretty good, and it just tells you how fragile
those things are."

It was the second significant blow to the Vikings defensive line
this week. Ray Edwards, who started the first 11 games before
giving way to James last week, was suspended Wednesday for
violating the NFL's policy on steroids.

The Vikings (6-6) will turn to rookie Brian Robison and
second-year pro Jayme Mitchell to fill in for James, who is
arguably the most naturally gifted pass rusher on the team.

"For us, it's frustrating to watch a guy work as hard as he has
to get back and, obviously, you'd never wish that to happen to
somebody one time," said linebacker Chad Greenway, who also had
major knee surgery early last season and spent 2006 on the shelf.
"But to have it done twice, in this short amount of time, it's
really unfortunate."

Childress said the injury is not career threatening and he
expects James to make a full recovery.

In the mean time, Robison and Mitchell are left to pick up the
slack on a suddenly thin defensive line, starting with Sunday's
game in San Francisco.

Robison is second on the team with 4½ sacks, but he has managed
just 1½ in the past eight games. Mitchell recorded his first sack
of the season last week against Detroit.

"I'm looking forward to the opportunity to help this team win
and make an impact in any way possible," Mitchell said Friday
after getting the news. "Just get after that quarterback and play
great football to help this team win."

Greenway spoke to James this week and said he is in relatively
good spirits despite the long road of surgery and rehabilitation
that awaits him.

"We just have to stay behind him, keep him as part of the
team," Greenway said. "If we can keep him around, keep him in
meetings and keep him being a part of this, that's going to help
him a lot going into the offseason. Hopefully he'll get right for
next year."

The Vikings promoted LB David Herron from the practice
squad to take James' place on the active roster. ... LB E.J.
returned to practice on Friday after missing the previous
two with an illness. Childress said Henderson is questionable for
the 49ers. ... S Mike Doss (hamstring) and S Tank Williams (knee)
are doubtful. WR Troy Williamson (concussion) and backup G Artis Hicks (back) are questionable.