Erin Henderson revamps attitude, lifestyle

Erin Henderson hasn't been satisfied with the way his career has gone the past two years and he's taking matters into his own hands. He cut off the dreadlocks, a symbolic move releasing the frustrations of the past, and is hoping more off-field focus helps his on-field performance.

After serving a four-game suspension last year that dipped into the first game of the playoffs, linebacker Erin Henderson is making changes to his game on the field and off the field.

His on-the-field changes include working on his knee bend and finishing plays. Off the field, the younger brother of E.J. Henderson has dealt with professional disappointment, but he said it was time to stop blaming circumstances and start focusing on himself.

"From the time I came out of college, going undrafted to dealing with some things that I've had to deal with here, I think one of my biggest issues – and I talked to E.J. about it – was always pointing the finger at somebody else and never wanting to take any responsibility for myself and what I've got going on," Erin said. "I took a long look in the offseason in the mirror and didn't really like what I saw. I wanted to make some changes off the field and I think that's going to help me on the field and taking care of what I have to take care of."

The disappointment started with the 2008 NFL Draft. He was projected to be a mid-round pick, but after seven rounds not one team selected him. The former Maryland Terrapin decided to sign with the Vikings and follow in his brother's footsteps once again.

But while E.J. quickly became a starter for the Vikings as a second-round draft pick in 2003, Erin has yet to work himself to that level. That is still his goal, but he decided he needed to change his life off the field to improve his standing on the field.

"Of course it's been disappointing, but I'm still young. I still have lots of time," he said. "Maybe that's why I wasn't drafted. Maybe I wasn't ready to be thrown into the fire yet. Maybe I wasn't ready to be thrown a gig of cash and all kinds of money to spend and do whatever I wanted to do with it. Maybe I had to go and mature a little bit and become the man that I am today in order for me to be successful and go through the steps that I want to go through."

From his relationships with women to the way he approaches his free time away from the Vikings' Winter Park facility, Erin Henderson is making changes.

"I cut back on a lot of the extracurricular activities I was involved in and that I was doing. I'm trying to just sit back and relax and take everything in. I don't feel like I always have to be on the move, have to be doing something, have to be on the go," he said. "I'm in a committed relationship and doing the right things by her, taking care of things at home and making sure that she's happy. There are a lot of things that you might not realize that it affects you but it does. If you're out late nights and doing different things, it affects your play whether you realize it or not.

"At this point, I kind of (moved) all that stuff out – not that I was terrible, not that I was a bad person, not that I was out all night drinking and doing all kinds of other things, but I could always do better. Just like I could do better on the football field, I could do better in my personal life as well, and I think that's one of the biggest things that I had to realize and take to heart and grow on and improve from there."

Henderson's suspension may have had an impact on him -- "I think it probably put him back in reality," fellow LB Heath Farwell said – but E.J. said his younger brother has always had the work ethic. Now there just might be a little more focus off the field from him.

"He's always had the want-to; he's always had the work ethic," E.J. said. "I don't really know what it is. Maybe it's just football 100 percent, football on his mind 100 percent, wanting to come out and show everybody that he can play. I don't think he liked how the past couple of years went as far as his playing career. I think that's what his angle is this offseason – to get there and be one of the best linebackers in this league."

If that were to happen and E.J. can make a full comeback from his fractured femur, the two brothers could eventually end up playing next to each in the starting lineup. Starting outside linebacker Chad Greenway and Ben Leber both have contracts that expire after the 2010 season, and the league's Collective Bargaining Agreement with the players union is also set to expire after this season.

Those circumstances invoke a lot of questions marks when it comes to Erin Henderson's situation, but playing next to brother E.J. is another objective.

"That's my goal. I'm going to continue to work," Erin said. "I think last year I got discouraged. I got frustrated with a lot of things that were going on and it carried onto the field in my play because my attitude wasn't right. My attitude wasn't where it was supposed to be and I wasn't doing the things that I need to do in order to make myself be successful.

"… That's my goal, just to earn that trust and that respect where they feel like they can throw me out there for a series or two in a game without Chad or Ben being injured, just to give those guys a blow so they can be fresher at the end of the game. Or maybe work into a starting role if something was to happen to Ben or was to happen to Chad, where they don't feel like they have to go bring in a free agent to play outside linebacker or anything like that because they know Erin is capable of doing it. As long as I can do that, I'll feel good about this season and what I set out to do will be accomplished."

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

Viking Update Top Stories