http://startribune.com/stories/503/5552126.htmlChange is good for Henderson
Judd Zulgad, Star Tribune
August 10, 2005
MANKATO -- E.J. Henderson's refusal to pout when he lost the starting middle linebacker job to veteran Sam Cowart this offseason paid off only 11 days into training camp.
Henderson was moved to weak-side linebacker with the first team for Tuesday's morning practice, and the plan is to start him at the spot in Friday night's preseason opener against Kansas City. He had been playing middle linebacker with the second unit.
"We'll see how he adapts, and if he does a good job at the Will linebacker position, we'll keep him there," defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell said. "But we're trying to find him a spot because he's having a good, strong camp and we're very pleased with the way Sam Cowart is playing. So we're trying to get a spot where E.J. will be a little bit more available to us out on the field and give him some opportunities for some more snaps."
Henderson, who replaces Dontarrious Thomas, never has played on the weak side before, but the Vikings coaching staff has been adamant that the team's three best linebackers will get on the field.
Henderson, who made 14 regular-season starts in the middle last season, admitted to being a bit apprehensive about shifting but said his former position helped to prepare him. "As the Mike linebacker you should know [everybody's job]," he said. "So it was just a matter of getting some reps in and getting used to it."
Henderson lost his previous starting assignment in March when Cowart was acquired from the New York Jets. But instead of taking the trade as a slap in the face he used it as motivation. "When you work, good things happen," Henderson said. "I'm just going to keep working, try to make some plays, eliminate the mental mistakes and see how things pan out."
Cottrell said no three times when asked if Henderson's promotion was a reflection on Thomas' play. Thomas also didn't seem upset about going to the second team.
"The coaches are here to put the right combination together, and they are going to keep working and switching us around until we find the right fit," said Thomas, who remains a starter in the nickel package. "I've just got to go out, continue to make plays and play my game."
The move also forced another move in the depth chart on the second and third teams. Raonall Smith, who was expected to compete for the starting job with Thomas on the weak side, was demoted to third team because a middle linebacker had to take Henderson's spot with the second unit.
Smith doesn't play the middle, so he will be on the weak side with the third string. Rod Davis was promoted to the second team to play in the middle, and Heath Farwell shifted to the middle for the third team.