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Updated: August 6th, 2010 12:31pm
Notebook: E.J. Henderson's work expands; Adrian Peterson still limited

Notebook: E.J. Henderson's work expands; Adrian Peterson still limited

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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MANKATO, Minn. -- The slow-and-steady return of E.J. Henderson took another step on Friday morning, when the Minnesota Vikings' middle linebacker got his most action to date in competitive drills.

Coaches held out Henderson from team (11-on-11) periods most of the first week of camp, waiting to see how his surgically repaired femur would respond to lower-contact work, and he's practicing only in the mornings during two-a-days.

But Henderson took the bulk of work on Friday -- the afternoon session was scheduled for special teams only -- and afterward said his conditioning is beginning to catch up to the rest of his recovery.

"You can never be in football shape (until you) come out here with the pads on, the helmet on, especially after not working out for so long," Henderson said. "I feel it starting to come back. The more reps I get, the easier it is. Hopefully, in a couple weeks, I'll be there."

Friday marked the eight-month anniversary of Henderson's gruesome injury, which came in a collision with teammate Jamarca Sanford on Dec. 6 at Arizona.

Asked if the injury is out of mind, Henderson said, "Not really totally out of mind. Still gets cold, so I've got to warm it up. So, of course, I'm thinking about it. But as far as when I'm out there playing, it's all football."

The next barrier Henderson must cross is participating in a "live" tackling situation, which could be as soon as Saturday. Coach Brad Childress has had players in full pads only once in the first eight days of camp, and Henderson was held out of the to-the-ground tackling periods.

A lot can happen in the next month, but barring a setback, all indications are Henderson is on track to start the season opener Sept. 9 at New Orleans.

"I think he was up to about 20 reps (Friday), from 16 (Thursday)," defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. "We're gradually putting him in more and more situations and seeing how he responds. So far, so good. He hasn't complained about any soreness or anything. So, we'll just see what he feels like (Saturday)."

Peterson returns

Running back Adrian Peterson (leg) returned to practice but once again was held out of competitive drills.

Peterson hasn't practiced in full since the first couple days of camp. He did extra stretching on his own before Fridays practice, went through individual drills and summoned a trainer to bring him a thigh sleeve before continuing with group installation.

The injury isn't believed to be significant -- Peterson on Tuesday said he'd be OK in "a few days" -- but it's clear the team is approaching with caution.

"We take it day by day," Childress said. "We're going to see the athlete and we'll see the docs and go from there. As much as I want him to (participate in competitive drills) ... right now, it's not the prudent thing to do."

Division of labor

Special-teams coordinator Brian Murphy said the plan is to give kickers Ryan Longwell and Rhys Lloyd a half each in all four preseason games.

"That's the most fair way to do it," Murphy said. "That a guy knows he's kicking in a half, he's able to stay warm through that half, so mentally, you know when you're on, you know when you're off."

Longwell is coming off his most accurate season as a place-kicker, and Lloyd is a career kickoff specialist who never has attempted an NFL field goal.

However, Murphy has said during the offseason he's approaching the position with no preconceived notions, and he even left open the possibility on Friday that -- if both kickers make the team -- whether one or both is on the 45-man game day roster could be a week-to-week decision.

"I would caution to say, 'Well, it's more important this week that we have Player X because of the talent of the returner.' Everyone we play has a good returner," Murphy said. "It'll be like any other position across the board -- you're going to have to make a decision, is there an injury at a different spot? Do we need an extra defensive back during the course of the week? There's so many things that go into that decision, and the bottom line is this: you have to do what's best for the team."

Staying put

Frazier said coaches have talked about looking at impressive rookie cornerback Chris Cook on the right side, where Lito Sheppard continues to get the bulk of action with the starters.

"But I think it serves (Cook) best at this point to stay at left, get his footwork down, get comfortable there," Frazier said. "There may come a time where we will take a look at him at right."

Cook made another eye-catching play Friday, running stride for stride with Bernard Berrian down the sideline and making a last-second move to deflect Tarvaris Jackson's on-target pass.

Health watch

Fullback Naufahu Tahi dropped out of Friday's morning practice and later returned to the field as a spectator with a sleeve on his right calf.

Center John Sullivan, who missed time earlier in the week with a calf injury, didn't dress for practice. Second-year pro Jon Cooper worked with the starters.

"I don't know that we would have ever gotten to see (Cooper) in that role, playing against Pat Williams and Kevin Williams," Childress said. "Guy's got to do something right to start for four years at Oklahoma, I know that. Smart mentally. He's probably about the same weight right now as John Sullivan, and he's done decent with the turns he's gotten in there."

Running back Darius Reynaud (sprained ankle), cornerback Benny Sapp and linebacker J Leman remained sidelined. Receiver Sidney Rice (hip) and cornerback Cedric Griffin (knee) still are on the physically unable to perform list.

Quick hits

• Undrafted rookie CB Marcus Sherels had his best day of camp. The former Gopher intercepted Jackson on a throw that went through TE Visanthe Shiancoe's hands in 7-on-7, then picked off QB Sage Rosenfels during 11-on-11 by breaking in front of an in-breaking route by Marko Mitchell in zone coverage.

• CB Antoine Winfield also intercepted Jackson, driving on a short throw to WR Greg Lewis and making a sprawling catch.

• WR Percy Harvin was absent for a sixth straight day since his grandmother passed away.

• Rookie TE Mickey Shuler, who has been hampered by a hamstring issue, had his first three catches in team drills.

• Longwell hit 7 of 7 field-goal attempts against a live rush, the long around 53 yards.

• Veteran LG Steve Hutchinson continues to see limited work, but it's not believed to be injury-related. Rookie Chris DeGeare has split time in his place.

• Final passing stats in team: Jackson 11-for-14; Rosenfels 5-for-7, INT; Joe Webb 5-for-5.

• Former NFL WR Todd Pinkston -- who played for Childress in Philadelphia and briefly was on the Vikings' roster in 2006 -- is serving as a coaching intern in camp through The Bill Walsh NFL Minority Coaching Fellowship. Former Vikings S Willie Offord also is part of the group, which will stay with the team through the first preseason game.

• The Vikings practice at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday, then have their only scheduled off day of camp on Sunday.

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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