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Short Term & Long Term Impact Of E.J.’s Injury

It is too early to know much about the long-term prospect of E.J. Henderson returning or not returning to play football for the Vikings.  Not all the news is horrible, like this story (thanks for the link Fran) in which a doctor says Henderson could easily be back by training camp.

Now, I am always skeptical with these type of stories.  First, the doctor has not evaluated Henderson but merely saw the injury on TV.  Second, he deals with skiers as a specialty, and may not fully grasp what will be required of E.J.’s knee should he return to football.  Third, I read these same types of articles about Charles Gordon last year after his gruesome ankle injury and Gordon was unable to return so far.

So, not to be a giant pessimist (perhaps more of a practical realist?) I wanted to take a look at what the Vikings may do to fill the giant void that E.J. Henderson has left in the middle of our defense. 

In the short term, the Vikings will use Jasper Brinkley in the middle on base packages.  Brinkley was the Vikings 5th round draft pick this year.  Brinkley is out of South Carolina where he was known for his big hits and also for recovering from injuries himself.  Here is what I had to say about Brinkley shortly after the Vikings drafted him:

Jasper Brinkley, linebacker, South Carolina, pick 150, fifth round

THE GOOD:  Brinkley has a big 6′ 2″ and 250 lbs. frame accompanied by solid playing speed.  If it weren’t for injury, Brinkley would’ve been a lock as a day one pick after the 2007 season.  His work ethic and determination are pretty impressive, and he’s exactly the type of hard nosed player the Vikings can feel confident to have backing up E.J. Henderson.  He also has the versatility to fill in at the other linebacker spots if need be.

THE BAD:  As I mentioned, Brinkley was knocked out of the 2007 season after a gruesome knee injury.  While he came back and semi-proved himself in 2008, it remains to be seen if he can truly get back and play at the level he was at before the injury.  Also, injuries like this run the risk of reoccuring, which would be devestating to his career.

THE UNKNOWN:  Surprising for a guy of his size, Brinkley seems to be less of a physical player than you would expect.  I don’t know if this is posssibly just a “gun shy” reaction to his injury or if it is just the way he plays.  Regardless, he’s going to have to get over that real quick to be successful in the NFL. 

QUOTE FROM DRAFT DAY:  “I got to full speed toward the end of the year, you could tell by the way my performance showed – my tackles and sacks started to increase.”

HIGHLIGHT REEL (click here)

GRADE: “A”          As far as I’m concerned, trading up to snag this kid was one of the smarter moves the Vikings front office made all day.  Linebacker depth was a definite need, and Brinkley has tremendous value for a fifth round pick in that respect.  Do not be surprised to see him make an immediate impact on special teams, and eventually become a starter in this league.

 

Much will depend on how Brinkley performs when it comes to the Vikings offseason approach to the middle linebacker position.  It is a safe bet that if Jasper struggles the Vikings will not bank on E.J. making a timely concern.  They will address the need in the offseason via the draft or free agency.

If Brinkley struggles greatly right off the bat, then it will be interesting to see if the Vikings take a look at some free agent linebackers.  Remember, Derrick Brooks is still available.


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12 Responses to “Short Term & Long Term Impact Of E.J.’s Injury”

  1. bigjohnny84 says:

    Cmon Adam, your starting to toot your own horn here. Just kidden. I really liked him coming out of the draft also. I remember Mayock calling him a downhill thumper, which sounds good for a middle linebacker. I would like to hear Mayocks take on him taking over for EJ.

    • Adam Warwas says:

      I am? But he hasn’t done anything to prove me right yet.

      Not tooting my own horn at all… just trying to find some upside in this sad situation… and the upside here is that I had confidence in him back in April.

      • bigjohnny84 says:

        I was just kidden ya Adam, I really didnt think you were tootin your own horn. I too am trying to find an upside to this. Just more frustration after the puckers slopped out.

  2. Purple Charlie says:

    Adam,
    I’m sure you feel the same way, I hope Brinkey steps up to the plate, Derrick Brooks has the smarts no doubt, But don’t you think it would take him too long to get up to speed and football shape this late in the season???

  3. c.carterhof says:

    If Brooks is in shape? Yea, you betcha!
    I think thats somthing ya gotta consider.

  4. bigjohnny84 says:

    Guys what do we have to lose by lookin at Brooks? I think Brinkley can be good, but probably more long term than short term. We need a fix now

    • Adam Warwas says:

      Brooks would probably not be an every down player… but he could hold down the fort on the outside and allow Leber to go to the middle…

      Best solution is for Brinkley to light it up.

  5. jeege says:

    Poor EJ. This really is so sad to see. I like people to be optimistic about these kinds of injuries, but lets be honest with ourselves. To play at the NFL level again…I just don’t see it happening after that type of break. We don’t even know what else happened to the ligaments, cartilage, and muscles that surround the knee. There could be stretching or tearing that will take a long recovery time to get back to being able to be athletic again.

    Let alone play at the top of his game again.

    I don’t want to be pessimistic, but the reality is that Brinkley has got to step up. Big.

    And if he plays well, maybe we wont need to draft another starter type at the middle.

    Regarding Brooks, hell yes sign him! Remember that he was the starting OLB on the ORIGINATING “Tampa 2” defense, which is the precise defense we run. It wouldn’t take any time at all for him to plug in, assuming he is physically prepared for it. (which is a big assumption.)

    We’ll recover from this loss, both the game and the player. And the team will come out firing on all six next week. Go Vikes!

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