Teammates thinking of Henderson

A day after a gruesome fractured femur for linebacker E.J. Henderson, his defensive teammates had him in their thoughts and prayers and talked about the emotional impact of the injury.

E.J. Henderson spent the night in intensive care at St. Joseph's hospital in the Phoenix area after fracturing his left femur in an ugly incident Sunday night.

The starting middle linebacker is expected to return to Minnesota this week, but he will be placed on injured reserve and start making the long road of recovery back.

"We wish him the best in his rehab and his care," Vikings coach Brad Childress said.

Henderson was going to make a tackle on Cardinals running back Tim Hightower when backup safety Jamarca Sanford hit Henderson's leg, causing the gruesome injury that will end Henderson's season.

"I only needed to see it one time to understand how bad it was," said linebacker Ben Leber. "I didn't even know what had happened. Just from the looks of it you knew it was bad. It's a sick and gruesome reminder of how violent the game can be and you a lot of time forget about it and you don't think about it.

"A situation like this where a guy breaks the largest bone in your body, and as nasty as it was I think everybody immediately starts thinking about the recovery and what's it's going to take and how long. I think that's why it was such a hard thing to watch and see."

Henderson entered the Sunday night's game as the team's leading tackler with 89 and was credited with 10 tackles Sunday night before the injury. He was carted off the field as medical personnel stabilized his leg and his younger brother Erin held his hand. Erin stayed in Phoenix overnight with E.J.

"He's a great rallying force. He's a good football player. He's a good leader, a quiet leader, but you get past that," Childress said. "You may not replace him physically, but you get past that. You have to get past it because we have a quarter of the regular season left."

As disturbing as the injury was, Childress said there wasn't any ligament damage, which could be good news for Henderson's attempts to play again. His teammates were hopeful that he would make a full recovery.

"Oh God, I hope so," said linebacker Chad Greenway. "You never know, something like that it's unfortunately so bad you have to actually ask those questions. But the way he is, he's actually one of the tougher guys I've been around. Wanted to play last year on another vicious injury that just wouldn't let him go. God-willing, he'll be able to heal well and get back in due time. The organization we have, they'll support him because that's the kind of people they are."

Leber was even more convinced that Henderson would return to duty in due time.

"Without a doubt. We don't know right now how long, but knowing his personality and what he's been through, without a doubt he'll be back," Leber said. "This is not like a career-ending deal. He'll be back for sure."

The Vikings are expected to place him on injured reserve this week. Rookie Jasper Brinkley will take his spot initially and the team was already scouring the free-agent wire to see if they could find a viable replacement in the linebacker corps.

"My emotion: I'm still praying for E.J. I know he's going to call me because we're very close because he's like my mentor," Brinkley said. "I know he's going to be pulling for me. I'm going to go in there and play hard. I'm not going to let another person outwork me. I'm going to prepare well."

Several of his teammates said they texted or called Henderson, but none of those had actually interacted with him. Greenway said trainer Eric Sugarman had spoken with Henderson.

Childress said Henderson was in good spirits.

Henderson was recently selected as the Vikings 2009 Community Man of the Year and pledges $100 for every tackle he makes to his E.J. Henderson Youth Foundation, which strives to increase the social, academic and athletic skills of local youth.

Henderson ranks fourth all-time among Vikings linebackers with 12.5 sacks and was named the team's 2007 defensive MVP. His 2008 season was ended after he suffered dislocated toes in the fourth game of the year.

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