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Updated: September 16th, 2011 11:45am
E.J. Henderson 'pretty confident,' will be game-time decision Sunday

E.J. Henderson 'pretty confident,' will be game-time decision Sunday

by Tom Pelissero
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- E.J. Henderson missed a second straight practice on Friday, casting further doubt on the middle linebacker's availability for Sunday's home opener against Tampa Bay.

But Henderson said he has dealt with similar swelling in his left knee since undergoing surgery to repair a fractured femur in December 2009 and is "pretty confident" he'll play on Sunday.

"I think we had one episode last (November) where it swelled up a lot," said Henderson, who had the knee drained on Thursday and underwent an X-ray that showed no structural damage.

"We pretty much had to do the same thing -- drain it, treat it and I made it out there Sunday. This is nothing out the ordinary. Just maybe a little more swelling, a little more pain, but it's something that we're dealing with and hopefully, I'll be ready to rock on Sunday."

Coach Leslie Frazier said the Vikings will work out Henderson before the game and then decide whether to play him. The Vikings officially listed Henderson as questionable on the injury report.

"He was little sore when he woke up (Friday) morning, so just didn't want to come out here and make it worse," Frazier said. "We'll see how he feels in the next 48 hours."

Henderson, 31, confirmed the swelling originates in the area of his knee where surgeons inserted a titanium rod to repair the fractured femur. The only difference this was "maybe a little extra pain at the bottom of the knee," Henderson said, "but it's nothing surprising to us."

He said he expected some swelling, just not that much, after playing 79 snaps in last weekend's season-opening loss to San Diego. Henderson played more than 70 snaps only three times last season, with a high of 78 in the Vikings' fourth game against the New York Jets.

"I felt a little better (Friday)," Henderson said. "These past three days taking off, I think, helped it out. We'll see how it feels (Saturday) morning, we'll see how it feels in pregame and see if I can rock."

If he can't, the Vikings likely would turn to his brother, Erin Henderson, who took most of his reps in the middle the past two days. Kenny Onatolu then would likely replace Erin Henderson on the weak side -- but Frazier said he's hopeful it won't come to that.

"If there's anybody who can play through things, E.J. Henderson can," Frazier said. "So, when he said that he was struggling a little bit, you have to pay attention. Because he never talks about injuries at all. It's not who he is."

In eight-plus NFL seasons, Henderson has missed 110 of a possible 129 regular-season games (85.3%). He missed 12 games in 2008 with dislocated toes and four games (plus playoffs) in 2009 because of the broken leg but played 94.5% of the defensive snaps last season. 

Asked for the chances E.J. plays, Erin Henderson said, "About 99 percent. I know my guy. I know my brother. We come from a place where, if you can, you do. If he's feeling up to it and he's feeling able and his knee is holding up and everything's good, I know he will be out there. I know he'll be giving us everything he's got once he steps on the field."

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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