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Updated: June 4th, 2010 4:26pm
Notebook: Vikings proceeding with Brinkley as starting middle linebacker

Notebook: Vikings proceeding with Brinkley as starting middle linebacker

by Tom Pelissero
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings are cautiously optimistic about E.J. Henderson's recovery from a fractured femur, and Henderson said on Friday he'll be "ready to rock" when training camp opens in late July.

That doesn't mean the Vikings are counting on Henderson being ready for the season opener Sept. 9 at New Orleans.

Second-year pro Jasper Brinkley has worked with the No. 1 defense throughout organized team activity practices, and according to defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, the Vikings consider that arrangment open-ended.

"We're proceeding right now as if 'Jasp' is going to be the middle linebacker," Frazier said. "E.J. hasn't really gone out and done any drills with us. So, you can't say that he's going to be ready when we get ready to play the Saints.

"If it happens, we all would be extremely happy. But right now, we're looking at Jasper being that guy."

Coaches have spoken highly of Brinkley's development in his first full NFL offseason. But the drop-off was significant -- particularly in coverage -- when the 2009 fifth-round pick from South Carolina took over the starting job following Henderson's injury on Dec. 6.

Frazier said he didn't know the severity of Henderson's injury immediately, but "after talking with the doctors immediately after the game, I was really concerned with his career, whether it was in jeopardy or not.

"Just seeing the progress he's made, I'm really encouraged and believing that he's going to be back out playing again. But originally, I was concerned, whether or not we had seen his potential last football game as a Viking."

So far, Henderson's work on the practice field has been limited to stretching and warm-ups, although Henderson said Friday he's capable of running full speed.

If there's been one particularly encouraging sign to Frazier, it's Henderson's work in the weight room.

"I'm amazed that he can push up the weight that he's pushing up and put the weight, the pressure on his leg that he can, which gives you hope that he's far ahead of where everyone thought he'd be at this time," Frazier said. "So, just kind of wait and see."

More than 150 Vikings executives, front-office staff, coaches and players partnered with other volunteers on Friday to build a student-designed playground at Nellie Stone Johnson Community School in north Minneapolis -- the fifth year the team has participated in the project.

The Vikings also split the cost of the playground with its community partner, Toro.

"Everybody does some little (event), whether it's Children's Hospital, whether it's Meals on Wheels, whether it's homeless shelters -- you can go on and on with what our guys are involved with," coach Brad Childress said. "But in terms of the whole organization kind of lending a hand, I think it's the best, and all the players that were here involved."

* Childress confirmed the Vikings have no interest in free-agent safety O.J. Atogwe. "Nope," Childress said. "We've got who we need right now on the football team."

* Childress said he has received no update on whether end Ray Edwards will attend next week's three-day, four-practice minicamp. The minicamp is mandatory, but Edwards isn't required to attend because he's not under contract.

* The Vikings' final two organized team activity practices are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday. Childress wouldn't say whether the team indeed will practice but indicated they may be scaled-down sessions. "We got a lot of great work done with these 12 (OTAs), and we'll get some work done next week with people that we want to get some work next week," Childress said. "Maybe."

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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