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Updated: April 23rd, 2013 3:10pm
Notebook: GM doesn't dismiss idea of moving Erin Henderson to middle

Notebook: GM doesn't dismiss idea of moving Erin Henderson to middle

by Judd Zulgad
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The departure of Jasper Brinkley to the Arizona Cardinals in free agency means the Minnesota Vikings are going to need to find a middle linebacker to take his place.

That has caused plenty of speculation that the Vikings could use one of their two-first round selections on Thursday night (Nos. 23 and 25) on Notre Dame's Manti Te'o.

But general manager Rick Spielman said Tuesday that it shouldn't be assumed that the Vikings might not already have their middle linebacker on the roster.

Asked if Erin Henderson was strictly considered a weak-side linebacker at this point, Spielman said, "No, that's flexible. That depends on what happens in the draft. If we go outside, Erin can slide inside or if we go inside Erin can play outside. That's what is great about this linebacker thing. We have the flexibility to go either way."

Henderson, who finished fourth on the Vikings last season with 112 tackles and had three sacks, has limited experience playing middle linebacker. That has come in the nickel defense when two linebackers remain on the field.

Spielman said the Vikings do want a middle linebacker who can play three downs in their Tampa-2 defense. "I know you see the Cover-2 and a lot of the stuff that we do on defense," he said when asked about what that player would need to bring to the position. "Can he flip his hips and cover down the seam and do a lot of things like that?"

No comparison

As Kevin Williams nears the end of his standout career, various mock drafts have speculated the Vikings will take a defensive tackle in the first round on Thursday.

Williams was selected by the Vikings in the first round of the 2003 draft. Since that time, the Vikings haven't taken a defensive tackle higher than the fourth round. (That was Christian Ballard in 2011.)

Spielman said there are "a lot of good defensive tackles" in this draft but would not compare any of them to Williams.

"I think Kevin Williams is one of the greatest defensive tackles to play that under (tackle) position," Spielman said. " ... I wish I could predict that (about another player), I don't know that but I know we feel very strongly about a lot of these defensive tackles in this draft."

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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