The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports

August 2, 2013

No more Big Brother for Henderson

Sixth-year player begins training camp as starting MLB

(Continued)

In his first season without his brother around, Henderson started 10 games for the Vikings at outside linebacker and finished the season with a career-high 80 tackles in 14 games. He also had a career-high three sacks.

In the offseason, the Vikings moved him to the middle. He embraced the role, even adding a little weight — he's listed at 244 and said the Vikings don't want him over 248 — for the extra banging that goes on inside.

The Vikings also added free agent Desmond Bishop, who was an inside linebacker for the Packers. However, Henderson remained in the middle, while Bishop is beginning camp on the outside.

Henderson said he wants to show that coach Leslie Frazier and the defensive staff made the right decision to put him — and keep him — in the middle.

"Coach Frazier, he's like a father figure to us," Henderson said. "A lot of times you look at your dad or see somebody you view in that way, you never want to let them down.

"So once he gives you that vote of confidence and he says, 'He's going to be our middle linebacker until otherwise or until something else happens,' I have to go out there and now it's my turn."

Frazier said Henderson shouldn't worry about who's behind him on the depth chart or who's along side him on the field. He needs to concentrate on his own game and the extra responsibilities that go with playing middle linebacker. And those are coming along nicely after a week of training camp, the coach said.

"He's done some impressive things," Frazier said. "He had some opportunities (Thursday) in our live scrimmage... to make some open-field tackles, and he did. I like the leadership that he's shown, and he's beginning to mature, I think, in that role."

Frazier said middle linebacker is considered an on-field extension of the defensive coordinator, and Henderson is learning to handle that part of it as well, including answering questions his teammates ask.

Perhaps he's the big brother on the field now.

"It's different than playing outside linebacker," Frazier said. "When you're the middle linebacker, everybody's looking at you for leadership. And I think he's grown into that role."

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