Linebacker E.J. Henderson's comeback from a gruesome injury is nearly complete. He was back in action delivering a big hit on Tuesday and talking about the journey afterwards. Plus, get 20 practice and depth-chart notes from Tuesday afternoon.
is used to cornerbacks and linebackers flying around him. In an instant, that changed, for about eight months anyways.
Suddenly it was trainers and emergency medical personnel securing his fractured femur in the middle of a football stadium in Arizona. He went from being feared to fearing the unknown.
It may seem like a quick process to outsiders, but Henderson knows that his journey to get back to normal in his football world took a look a lot of hard work, and a plan.
"The most difficult moment was realizing my season was over," Henderson said Tuesday afternoon, not long after a laying a big hit on star running back Adrian Peterson
that stopped the offense short of a first down on a short-yardage drill.
That's a long way from riding a scooter, then using a wheelchair and cane before he was able to walk under his own a power a few months after the serious injury that had teammates praying for his well-being and recovery.
But that incident, scary as it might have been for those who witnessed it and for Henderson himself, hasn't changed his outlook. He's fully committed to getting back to live NFL action and hitting the opposition.
"I'm glad I'm starting to get some real action, to-the-ground action. I'm definitely feeling better," he said.
There are surprisingly few noticeable effects of the injury, which resulted in a titanium rod being inserted permanently in his leg. He is running around the practice fields of Mankato, hitting teammates and looking for the next big step in his comeback – live contact in a game.
That could come Saturday in St. Louis, where the Vikings open the preseason against the Rams. He's not sure if the trainers and medical personnel will let him play yet, but he's all for it.
"If I do play, it will be exciting to play, exciting to get in the action. Do some live bullets against another team, almost a culmination of my journey," he said. "Really not to the ninth (the regular-season opener on Sept. 9), but it will definitely feel good to get some preseason action."
Henderson clearly has the regular-season opener marked as an event in his mind. He has said in the past that the hardest part was watching his teammates lose to the New Orleans Saints
in overtime of the NFC Championship and not being able to do anything about it. A little more than seven months later, Henderson should be on the field when the Vikings get a rematch in New Orleans.
"To me the culmination will be after Sept. 9 with the win, sitting in the locker room," he said. "To me, that would be the culmination of everything coming together. Everything came together in the right way. If we get to that point, that's when I'll say I'm satisfied and let's continue through the season."
While his comeback appears quick to outsiders, he said he hasn't surprised himself.
"From the beginning I had a plan. I'm just glad there wasn't no setbacks, knock on wood. The big man upstairs has been looking out for me these past seven months," he said. "Everything went smooth."
TUESDAY AFTERNOON PRACTICE NOTES
In addition to Percy Harvin (death in the family and migraines) and Brett Favre, the Vikings on Tuesday were without CB Cedric Griffin (knee, PUP) and WR Sidney Rice (hip, PUP), TE Visanthe Shiancoe, LB J Leman, C John Sullivan, G Anthony Herrera and TE Jim Kleinsasser. Long snapper Cullen Loeffler is also attending the birth of his child and Jared Allen handled Loeffler's long-snapping duties without incident.
Henderson's big hit on Peterson drew applause from a crowd that spent much of the afternoon practice in the rain.
Peterson took the first short-yardage carry up the middle and appeared to make a first down. Toward the end of practice, during a four-minute drill, Peterson turned the left corner and appeared to be off to the races for a long touchdown, but about 20 yards downfield he pulled up and appeared to show some concern for his hamstring.
Jasper Brinkley laid a big hit on RB Toby Gerhart during full-team, short-yardage work.
Rhys Lloyd went 5-for-6 on his field goal attempts with Allen snapping to holder Chris Kluwe.
WR Darius Reynaud returned to practice after working through an ankle sprain suffered last week.
WR Freddie Brown, who was signed Tuesday morning, was already getting some work with the third-team offense. With Rice and Harvin out, the team needed another receiver to take reps.
Without Kleinsasser and Shiancoe in the lineup, TE Mickey Shuler saw some reps with the first-team offense when the Vikings were using a two-tight end formation.
With no Sullivan or Herrera on the field, Jon Cooper and Chris DeGeare were the fill-ins at center and right guard, respectively.
WR Jaymar Johnson had a solid practice, catching a short pass and then putting a quick move on CB DeAndre Wright and then showing off his speed downfield on one play. A while later, Johnson beat CB Lito Sheppard on a post route during one-on-ones.
WR Bernard Berrian also beat Sheppard for a 40-yard reception from Sage Rosenfels down the left sideline.
WR Logan Payne made a nice over-the-shoulder catch on a perfect pass from Rosenfels for about a 40-yard reception during one-on-ones.
CB Chris Cook stayed in coverage with Berrian deep down the field to knock away a bomb from Tarvaris Jackson. CB Asher Allen also had a nice pass defensed against Berrian.
Rookie QB Joe Webb found TE Garrett Mills for a short touchdown pass during goal-line work.
The Vikings issued their first depth chart of the season. Asher Allen is listed ahead of Lito Sheppard at right cornerback, despite Sheppard getting the majority of the first-team reps so far. Last year's starter at that spot, Cedric Griffin, is on the physically-unable-to-perform list as he recovers from a torn ACL suffered in the NFC Championship Game.
Brett Favre is listed as the fourth-string quarterback … because he hasn't reported to camp as he mulls his options.
Rookie Chris DeGeare is listed as the second-string left guard, which he was before Anthony Herrera was hurt. DeGeare was the first-team right guard on Monday and Tuesday without Herrera.
Despite missing most of training camp because of the death of his grandmother and migraine headaches, Harvin is still listed as a starting wide receiver because Rice remains on the PUP list.
Albert Young is listed as the second-string running back, ahead of second-round pick Toby Gerhart, which is the way the practice reps have been going at that position.
Henderson, who is continuing to see more time as his recovery from a fractured femur continues, is listed as the starting middle linebacker.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.