Notebook: Injuries limiting workload for Percy Harvin, E.J. Henderson
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Percy Harvin will be in the Minnesota Vikings' lineup again on Sunday against Green Bay, but a sore rib that has bothered him since training camp once again may limit his workload.
Harvin leads the Vikings with 25 receptions for 261 yards (10.4 average) and saw his workload increase from 57 snaps total over the season's first two weeks to 38, 42 and 40 in the next three games, respectively.
But he got crumpled while throwing a block in the Vikings' lone win over Arizona on Oct. 9, aggravating the rib issue that first surfaced on Aug. 8. An X-ray on Oct. 12 showed no fracture, but Harvin played only 29 snaps in last weekend's loss at Chicago -- a strong indication coaches are concerned about keeping him on the field.
"They are," Harvin confirmed on Friday. "Me playing reckless probably don't help the fact either. But everybody's sore now, so just got to take care of the body and be ready to go Sunday."
After sitting out practice on Wednesday, Harvin was limited the past two days. He wore a protective vest against the Bears that "did pretty good, but when you're playing against that ground (at Soldier Field), it don't give too much. I may go with it (this week), I may not, but definitely ready to play."
Limited practice time is nothing new for Harvin, who missed 36 full practices and parts of at least 13 others last season because of a death in the family, migraines, an allergic reaction to medication and hip and ankle injuries.
He also missed two games late last season because of the migraines. But he was adamant on Friday he intends to stay on the field this time, offering effusive praise of rookie quarterback Christian Ponder -- "He's just showing why he was the 12th pick," Harvin said -- while also admitting he and teammates are "definitely frustrated" at 1-5.
"We feel our record could be something different, but it's not," Harvin said. "It's frustrating, but just around here, we all take pride in the Minnesota Vikings. It's hard to look at the playoff situation right now. But we just want to make some noise right now and finish this thing with some pride. Pride is everything."
Henderson still hurting
Middle linebacker E.J. Henderson is heading back to a limited role, too.
After taking only base-defense snaps for two weeks to rest his sore left knee, Henderson returned to the nickel defense at Chicago. But a series of problems in coverage and three missed tackles prompted coach Leslie Frazier to meet with the ninth-year veteran about reducing his snaps again -- at least until the Nov. 6 bye.
"He still doesn't see some of my explosion back," Henderson said. "Watching the tape, some of those plays, I realized I would have made myself. Me, the coaches and the trainers decide how much I play. So, between the three of us, we decide a couple more weeks off and then get back out there and see how it goes."
At 31, Henderson is roughly 22 months removed from surgery to repair a gruesome fractured femur some feared would end his career. He defied the odds by returning to play 94.5% of the snaps last season and make his first Pro Bowl.
But a heavy workload in this season's opener at San Diego left Henderson's knee -- where the titanium rod was inserted to stabilize the leg -- so swollen and sore he went for an X-ray to make sure there wasn't structural damage. Now he's gritting it out through a contract year with no way of knowing what 2012 will hold.
"When you get to this age, you start to look towards the other side of it," Henderson said. "That's just the reality of it. It definitely pops up in my mind. But I think the focus right now is on the now, getting another win for this team and focusing on what I can do for the Minnesota Vikings defense."
Younger brother Erin Henderson, who was highly productive in only 28 snaps against the Bears, is expected to take over "mike" snaps for the time being.
"It's a strong possibility," Frazier said. "We have to definitely get more production from that position.
First time for everything
That likely will open the door for safety Tyrell Johnson and center Joe Berger to get their first starts this season -- and two rookie sixth-round draft picks, safety Mistral Raymond and center/guard Brandon Fusco, to be active in reserve roles for the first time.
Raymond, whom coaches have primarily worked at free safety, might even have a chance to get on the field. The Packers use plenty of four- and five-sets, in addition to creating mismatches with the likes of tight end Jermichael Finley against smaller defensive backs such as Marcus Sherels, who would be the No. 4 cornerback if Antoine Winfield (neck) misses the game as expected.
Using a bigger player such as the 6-foot-1 Raymond, who played some cornerback at South Florida, could be an option to combat those matchups if and when the Vikings deploy their dime defense.
"These guys, they know me well enough to know that I put in the work," Raymond said. "I feel comfortable with everything that's going on right now."
• Frazier acknowledged the Vikings' decision to sign Berger (6-5, 315) and release backup C Jon Cooper (6-2, 291) on Sept. 12 was driven not only by Berger's 20 NFL starts, but the fact he's a bigger body. "He is a bright guy who has had some success and it looks like he will get an opportunity this Sunday," Frazier said.
• Ponder, who will make his first NFL start on Sunday, handled the week of practice well, Frazier said. "His demeanor hasn't changed a whole lot," Frazier said. "He's a guy who doesn't let the moment overwhelm him and he's prepared extremely well. He's one of those guys who is the first in and the last out. He works hard in practice. He'll be prepared."