Updated: June 11th, 2010 7:43pm
Notebook: E.J. Henderson returns to field; several veterans still out

Notebook: E.J. Henderson returns to field; several veterans still out

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings middle linebacker E.J. Henderson took another significant step in his recovery from a fractured femur on Friday, going through all individual and group drills during the opening practice of minicamp.

That included making a series of relatively sharp cuts while shadowing scout-team receivers, albeit below full speed, and Henderson didn't appear to have any trouble before leaving when competitive drills began.

"I know he was excited to get back out here and move around with the guys and get through some individual drills," coach Brad Childress said. "I wish I could tell you that it surprised me, but the way he has attacked this thing is amazing."

Injured in a nasty collision with teammate Jamarca Sanford on Dec. 6 at Arizona, Henderson said last week he'll be "ready to rock" when training camp opens on or around July 31.

However, the Vikings have been proceeding as though second-year pro Jasper Brinkley -- who continued to take first-team reps during team drills Friday -- will start when the season opens Sept. 9 at New Orleans.

Asked whether Henderson's timeline is realistic, Childress said. "Nobody has told me to be pessimistic about it. ... He hasn't had a whole heck of a lot of setbacks. Maybe we will see some down the line here, but I haven't seen any of them."

HEALTH WATCH
Three other starters didn't participate in anything except stretching: left guard Steve Hutchinson (shoulder surgery), cornerback Cedric Griffin (ACL reconstruction) and outside linebacker Chad Greenway, who didn't have a previously known injury.

Childress said Hutchinson is "doing good" and wasn't sure why Greenway didn't participate.

Defensive tackle Pat Williams also sat out team drills and was wearing a brace on his right elbow, on which he had offseason surgery.

"It's natural, man," he said. "I've got my strength back, already lifting and everything."

In place of those four sidelined starters, Ryan Cook worked at left guard, Lito Sheppard at right cornerback, Erin Henderson at outside linebacker and Jimmy Kennedy at defensive tackle.

Top draft pick Chris Cook dropped out before team drills, but Childress indicated his injury wasn't significant.

ROLL CALL
Receiver Percy Harvin was one of several players who returned to the field after skipping most or all of the voluntary workouts this offseason.

Harvin, who had been working out in Florida, is noticeably bigger than a year ago, and Childress said that's a good thing.

"I didn't ask him to get a little bit bigger, but with big comes strong," Childress said. "I don't think it's big and fat. I don't think that (strength and conditioning coach) Tom Kanavy has checked his body-mass index yet. That'll come in time. It doesn't hurt you to play it up a little bit, I think, when you get those wide receivers landing on their shoulders like they do."

Other veterans making their first appearance in front of reporters this offseason included receivers Sidney Rice and Bernard Berrian, end Jared Allen and cornerback Antoine Winfield.

GERHART RETURNS
Barred from organized team activity practices because his school still was in session, rookie running back Toby Gerhart was back on the field for the first time since rookie minicamp in early May.

"It was a little tough, but I made time to study," Gerhart said. "I got weekly installments and studied it as best I could. It's a little bit different not being here, not have (running backs coach Eric Bienemy) explaining it exactly. But for the most part, I had a pretty good baseline understanding of what was going on."

Gerhart took a red-eye flight from California on Tuesday night, arrived in Minnesota around 6 a.m. and went straight to the team's Winter Park headquarters to lift and begin meeting with Bienemeny.

He'll return to California after Saturday's practices to attend Stanford's commencement on Sunday, then take another red-eye back to the Twin Cities on Sunday night. Veterans will be excused after Sunday morning's practice, while rookies will stay in Minnesota another week before breaking until training camp.

"The plus part of not having Adrian Peterson here is the fact that Toby gets elevated reps right now," Childress said. "He's a bright-eyed guy. The minute he comes in, Eric Bieniemy grabs hold of him, there is some recall. ... Conceptually, he'll get up to speed very quick. But the speed of the game, you can't simulate on the Stanford campus or anywhere."

STILL NO RAY
As expected, left end Ray Edwards -- who still hasn't signed his $2.521 million restricted free-agent tender -- was a no-show, but Childress said he isn't concerned.

"I know Ray wanted to be over here," Childress said. "I know he understands that this is business. We communicated back and forth. Nobody likes to practice more and play more than Ray Edwards. It's just the nature of the business."

Asked if Edwards will sign the tender Tuesday, when the Vikings can reduce the offer, Childress said, "I haven't gotten any indication, but I would think that he would probably want to do that. Don't you?"

QUICK HITS
• Allen spoke with reporters for the first time since cutting off his trademark mullet before his recent wedding. Asked if he'll grow it back, Allen said, "I don't know. Really, to be honest, I promised my wife and my mom I'd cut my hair for the wedding. That's what it was, and that was three weeks ago. There's not a whole lot I can do with this now."

• Rookie Joe Webb continues to work at quarterback but also spent time with the coverage units during special-teams drills.

• Owner Zygi Wilf attended practice, spending time during stretching with Childress, and plans to be in town all weekend.

• During a team drill, PK Ryan Longwell connected on 5 of 6 field-goal attempts from 28 to 48 yards, narrowly missing wide left on his final attempt.

• WR Taye Biddle made the play of the day in practice, beating CB Benny Sapp on a go route and catching QB Sage Rosenfels' pass for a roughly 60-yard touchdown.

• Rosenfels also connected with WR Jaymar Johnson on a deep ball against CB DeAndre Wright and finished 4-for4 in team drills. Tarvaris Jackson was 4-for-5, R.J. Archer 1-for-1 and Webb 2-for-2.

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