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  1. #1
    VikingsTw is offline Jersey Retired
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    Dec 1969

    EJ Improving on His Game

    Henderson is no grousing understudy
    Mark Craig, Star Tribune
    May 1, 2005 VIKE0501

    A lot of professional athletes are just being paranoid when they complain that fans and media have counted them out.

    But Vikings middle linebacker E.J. Henderson was absolutely right when he mentioned it Friday.

    After all, who hasn't reached "10" and waved their arms over the 24-year-old Henderson's fledgling career? Who hasn't used an indelible marker to write 30-year-old newcomer Sam Cowart's name down as the starting middle linebacker for 2005?

    "You can count me out, coaches can count me out, players can count me out," Henderson said. "But I'm not going to count myself out. And that's what really counts."

    Rather than pull a Denard Walker and pout his way off the team, Henderson, according to Vikings officials, embraced the challenge put before him March 18 when the Vikings acquired Cowart from the New York Jets for a seventh-round draft pick. Cowart is working exclusively with the first unit during minicamp this weekend, while Henderson is on the second unit and special teams.

    Because of Henderson's athleticism and professionalism, the Vikings aren't ruling out the possibility that he'll reclaim his starting job in training camp.

    And if Cowart and Henderson both perform at a high level, Henderson will start in the middle and Cowart could move to the weak side, where Dontarrious Thomas and Raonall Smith are sharing reps with the first team this weekend.

    "We'll find ways to get the best linebackers on the field," defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell said. "We might run some 3-4, too."

    Henderson replaced the retired Greg Biekert in 2004 and led the Vikings in tackles with 125 despite a lingering knee injury. But his missteps and blown assignments, particularly in the passing game, were among the reasons the Vikings slumped to a 3-7 finish for the second consecutive year.

    "My linebacker coach [Pete Bercich] called me and told me they were going to trade for Sam," Henderson said. "I said, 'Cool.' I can't blame them. I don't think I did terrible, but I definitely think I have a lot of things I can improve on."

    Cottrell and Cowart have a history together in Buffalo and New York. Cottrell said he wants Cowart around beyond this season, but this could be a one-year fix.

    Cowart is in his eighth season, has had Achilles' tendon and knee injuries and has a one-year, $1 million contract with about $500,000 in incentives based on playing time.

    Cowart missed eight games and had only 25 tackles last season because of a sprained knee ligament. He lost his job to rookie Jonathan Vilma and then asked for a trade.

    The Vikings convinced him to void the remaining three years on his contract and take a $500,000 cut in base pay for this season.

    "It started out as a straight three-year deal," Cowart said. "Then my agent [Paul Healy] said, 'You know, if you stay healthy, you're one of the premier guys in the league at the inside position. If they have you locked in for three years, they aren't going to rip it up and give you a new one.'

    "If I do well this season, I'd probably want to stay. I played for Teddy in Buffalo, and I went to the Pro Bowl under him in 2000. He's the reason I went to the Jets. And now I'm here."

    Cowart and Henderson met for the first time Friday morning before the first minicamp practice. By Saturday morning, Cowart was pulling Henderson aside to explain the nuances of Cottrell's defense.

    "Sam seems like a cool dude," Henderson said. "I definitely think we'll have a good feeling together."

    To help put last season's mistakes behind him, Henderson said he has studied every defensive play from 2004 twice. It seems to be working: Cottrell said he's noticing fewer mistakes from Henderson this weekend.

    "People can say what they want, but there is no job locked up, except for Pep [quarterback Daunte Culpepper]," Henderson said. "The rest of us are competing. If I want to play, I have to make them play me."

    Mark Craig is at [email protected]

    Good stuff, i think EJ's really coming along, and with the help of cowart who knows cotrells defense like the back of his hand and knows the MLB position this is a great mentour for our future MLB.

  2. #2
    SKOL's Avatar
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    Apr 2004

    Re: EJ Improving on His Game

    "vikingstw" wrote:
    "We'll find ways to get the best linebackers on the field," defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell said. "We might run some 3-4, too."
    Wow, that would be fun to see. It would be quite a surprise if EJ, and the linebacker corps, has improved so much that they can't keep them off the field.

    The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good -Samuel Johnson - lexicographer
    The word genius isn t applicable in football. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein - Joe Theisman

  3. #3
    pudgesoprano is offline Asst. Coach
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    Dec 1969

    Re: EJ Improving on His Game

    where would the williams play if they did that i think would stick to the 4-3 all the time
    Here s the most important thing: You can NEVER lose your sense of humor. Without that, you ve got NOTHING. (Divinci) James Belushi

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 1969

    Re: EJ Improving on His Game

    It's good to hear that E.J. still has the heart to play and that there will be stiff competition for the starting middle LB job. That should make both players better and makes our LB core that much deeper. I'm rooting for you E.J. as well as many other Vikings fans!
    Go Vikings!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 1969

    Re: EJ Improving on His Game

    It's wait and see for me...
    You republican whore!

  6. #6
    muchluv4smoot's Avatar
    muchluv4smoot is offline Team Alumni
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    Dec 1969

    Re: EJ Improving on His Game

    I hate mini camp. You can't tell anything from seeing players in shorts.

    It is however, nice to see them out there again.

  7. #7
    UTVikfan's Avatar
    UTVikfan is offline Coordinator
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    Dec 1969

    Re: EJ Improving on His Game

    They are right, I had written off E.J. Sounds like he is a class act, or at least working on it. I LOVE his attitude, and also Cowarts. Things are looking good in Vikingland.

  8. #8
    happy camper's Avatar
    happy camper is offline Team Alumni
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    Dec 1969

    Re: EJ Improving on His Game

    i especially liked the part where he said "i studied each play from last year twice"

    i think the coaches have said thats the major reason EJ hasnt excelled.. he doesnt study.

    i wouldnt be suprised if tice's main reason bringing in cowart was to motivate EJ.
    "There is good and there is evil. And evil must be punished. Even in the face of Armageddon I will not compromise."

  9. #9
    DaunteHOF is offline Coach
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    Dec 1969

    Re: EJ Improving on His Game

    Hopefully EJ steps his game up...
    Its not braggin if you can do it!!!

  10. #10
    V4L's Avatar
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    Dec 1969

    Re: EJ Improving on His Game

    yah someone said it was to "light a fire under his butt" when we got cowart.. cant remember who.. but it looks like it is working.. and i like his attitude

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