EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Vikings' Super Bowl Express has hit a speedbump. It might be a very big one. They've survived without a terrific corner,
This is going to be tough for the Vikings. As football players, they confront their own mortality and career frailty often, and it's especially hard dealing with something as graphic and horrific as seeing the defensive leader of the team -- arguably the team's most important off-field presence -- have his leg pointing in two distinct directions, as happened on the field Sunday night in Arizona.
I asked a few of them in the Vikes' locker room Thursday how they'll deal with moving on from what they saw and felt Sunday night.
"It replays in my mind,'' said rookie
"As big a blow as this is,'' said tight end
"We put our lives on the line out there,'' said Henderson's brother, special-teamer
Tough deal. I'm not saying the Vikings won't cut it loose Sunday against Cincinnati. But what I'll be watching closely early in the game is the intensity by the Vikings, just to see if they're affected in any way by the tricks their minds may play on them.
I came away from my locker-room session in Minnesota with a lot of admiration for Erin Henderson. It can't be easy following your big brother to Maryland two years after he left a good legacy there, then following him to the Vikings and largely warming the bench; he's been inactive 11 of the first 12 games of the season as a backup linebacker and special-teamer. The other night, he said he saw what happened on the field and had to gather his emotions for a moment before rushing out to his brother's side. He wanted to help when he got there, not be a basket case.
I got emotional listening to his story. I can imagine what was roiling inside him.
"I said to Antoine Winfield on the sideline, 'I think he just broke his leg,' '' Erin Henderson said. "That's my blood out there. My brother. It took me a second, but I got it together and my brotherly instinct kicked in.
"When I got out there, I just kept saying, 'I'm right here with you, I'm here with you.' Don't know why I did this, but I'm telling him to breathe ... 'In your nose, out your mouth, in your nose, out your mouth.' He was in quite a bit of pain, so I said, 'Grab my hand. Squeeze my hand if you've got pain.' He squeezed so hard I thought he was gonna break my hand.
"In the ambulance, they hooked him up with IV fluids, and they gave him some morphine, so that helped. He understood everything that was going on. He was upset because he was starting to be back to the real E.J. after his injury last year. But this is what a great person he is. He told me now that he's gone, now they'll have to put me in. I said to him, 'That's why I love you, big bro. You're always concerned with others before yourself.'
"I was by his side for everything, except when he had to go into X-rays at the hospital. When we got to the hospital, we were there waiting for a little while in emergency, and they wheel this patient in with eight stab wounds. We're trying to talk about everything but football, and he said to me, 'Maybe my situation ain't so bad after all.'
"I am so proud of him. He's such a great guy to have in this locker room. And he plans to come back to be around the guy. He wants to come in for meetings and support the guys any way he can. He's even looking forward to rehab and coming back next year.''
E.J. Henderson will be 30 next season, trying to rebound from a devastating injury. Will he make it back? I sure hope he does. But except for specimens like
The Browns are playing hard for
Ryan looked more like
Looking on the bright side, he should be an upgrade over the beat-up
And the play in Arizona was Henderson's last for the year, so now it's up to the rookie plugger to back up nose man