Depth An Issue With James Lost for Season

The season-ending injury to Erasmus James and four-game suspension of Ray Edwards come at a time that the Vikings are trying to make a playoff push and suddenly have significant depth concerns at the defensive end position.

The plight of Vikings defensive ends has been something or a sore subject over recent years. Kenechi Udeze fell in the first round of the 2004 draft because of injury concerns. He would miss almost all of the 2005 season due to injury and, when he returned in 2006, he didn't record a sack despite starting all 16 games.

Erasmus James slipped in the first round of the 2005 draft for the same reason. Taken with the 18th pick of draft, many believed that, if not for hip and ankle injuries that limited him to just one season of big-time production, he had the natural skills to be a top-10 draft pick. Then-head coach Mike Tice defended both selections, saying that injuries in college do not always equate to injuries in the pros.

James has bucked that notion in a big way. James, who suffered a torn left ACL and a strained MCL in the Week 2 matchup with the Panthers last season, missed six of the first seven games this season and after playing sporadically since, was placed on injured reserve Friday in what is being termed another torn ACL.

While Brad Childress wouldn't elaborate on the extent of the injury by playing the "I'm not a doctor" card, he did say that "it's going to have be fixed." Translation? Surgery will be needed. It will be his third surgery on the same knee in a little over a year – James held off on surgery for a considerable period last year and didn't have it done by surgeon to the stars, Dr. James Andrews.

It is hoped that James will be ready by the time training camp opens, but for a career with so much promise, James has been a disappointment not because of the lack of heart or skill, but because his body has betrayed him – perhaps the worst kind of disappointment a professional athlete can endure.

The Vikings are now severely shorthanded at defensive end. With James out for the year and Ray Edwards serving a four-game suspension for violating the league's anabolic steroids and related substances policy, the Vikings have pushed rookie Brian Robison into the starting lineup, made Jayme Mitchell his primary backup and signed Otis Grigsby off the Panthers practice squad – maybe some form of retaliation of the Panthers being the team that injured James in the first place.

With a critical stretch of games coming, this is the worst possible time for the Vikings to have depth issues at any position – much less the critical defensive end spot.

SATURDAY NOTES
* Defensive lineman Fred Evans will return to practice Monday after sitting out his own two-game suspension related to a pair of arrests while still a member of the Dolphins.
* The worst fears of Thursday night's game were confirmed Friday. Both Rex Grossman and Jason Campbell – the anticipated starting quarterbacks for the Vikings next two home opponents – are lost for the season with separate leg injuries resulting from being tackled in Thursday night's game.
* On the Vikings' final injury report, safeties Mike Doss (hamstring) and Tank Williams (knee) are listed as doubtful. E.J. Henderson (flu) is listed as questionable, but expected to play. Artis Hicks (back) and Troy Williamson (concussion) are also listed as questionable. * Antoine Winfield is listed as probable and is expected to start Sunday.
* The 49ers injury report includes CB Marcus Hudson (knee) listed as out. QB Alex Smith (shoulder, forearm), and CB Shawntae Spencer (quadricep) are listed as doubtful and WR Arnaz Battle (ankle) and safety Mark Roman (ankle) are both listed as questionable.
* Matt Birk is going to have a news conference Tuesday to announce a campaign to help raise money for retired NFL players in need. Many of the former players believe they were sold out by the player's union following the strikes of 1982 and 1987. Former Vikings Chuck Foreman, Carl Eller, Jim Marshall, Paul Krause and Ed Marinaro are expected to attend.
* Udeze's appeal of a $7,500 for a phantom hit on Brett Favre is going to be heard Tuesday.

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