Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.
Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.
Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier announced today that Erin Henderson will start Sunday at Baltimore, but not at middle linebacker. Audie Cole will remain the starter at that spot while Henderson will return to weakside linebacker, a position he played prior to this season.
Henderson lost his job after his DWI arrest came to light last week. Henderson also has acknowledged that he's dealing with a personal issue, which caused him to miss the Green Bay game.
Henderson will return to the lineup after dressing but not playing in Sunday's victory against the Bears.
"It’s a huge thing for me," he said. "I didn’t really know how it was going to play out or what was going to happen once everything came out [about his arrest] and happened the way it did. It's another chance, another opportunity."
Henderson is familiar with the weakside spot so he shouldn't face any adjustment in shifting back to that role.
"From a pride standpoint and from a player’s standpoint, it’s a little bit difficult," he said. "But I accept my role and I understand what they’re trying to get done here and I’m behind my coach and the organization and whatever else decisions they make.”
The target of criticism for fans and media this season, Henderson said he's in a good frame of mind now, but he acknowledged that he let the criticism get to him this season.
"I have a lot of things to be happy about and thankful for aside from all the naysayers and haters and everybody else who's had different things to say about me throughout the year," he said. "Sometimes I let it get to me and get me down too much. I've come to grips with it and come to terms with it and I'm able to look at myself and know the man that I am and accept it.
".... I go out there every Sunday and I play my guts out, leave it on the line for my teammates and myself as well. So when you get some negative feedback it can be kind of a tough pill to swallow. But then you learn some of those people are idiots, sitting behind computers and phones saying whatever they want to say and you can't give it too much credit. Take it with a grain of salt and continue to move forward."
Henderson said he's limited his interaction on Twitter because of that criticism.
"I thought about deleting my account but that's giving them even more satisfaction," he said. "I still have my account but it's not on my phone so I don't check it as often and I don't tweet out too much. I think it is still good for those fans who appreciate the interaction and being able to reach out to people. There are a lot of good people out there. I get a lot of positive feedback as well. I don't think I give that enough credit or appreciation for the people who are talking well about me and who do have things to say about me. It can be kind of difficult to see sometimes with so much negativity coming your way.
"... Even with Audie going out there playing well. Instead of people just being happy for Audie playing, it's 'Audie's playing well, Erin sucks, get him out of there, he should never play again.' Why do I have to have anything to do with that? Just be happy for Audie and what he's doing and the opportunity he's taking advantage of."
Erin Henderson addressed reporters in the locker room Wednesday and apologized after being arrested for probable cause DWI and possession of a controlled substance in Eden Prairie on Nov. 19.
"I apologize to my teammates and the organization for this situation coming and arising," he said. "But now it's here and it's something we have to deal with. I'm sorry if I brought any embarrassment to this team or this organization. I didn't want to be a distraction."
Henderson missed three days of practice and Sunday's game at Green Bay because of what the team described as a personal issue. Henderson said his personal issues were not related to his arrest, but he indicated that he's taking steps to make changes in his life. He declined to give specifics.
"I have been given the tools and the resources by the organization and the sources to help me along and further myself in this process and continue to become the person that I know I can be going forward," he said.
Henderson described his situation as "eye-opening."
“It was a wake-up call for me and, honestly, it may be something that I needed in the long run," he said. "Something I think will help me progress and become the person I’m capable of being and the man that I want to be. It was a tough situation having to sit at home and watch your teammates and watch your guys go out there to battle."
Henderson said his absence Sunday was a "mutual thing" between himself and the organization.
"All parties involved felt that it might be best to kind of step away from the game for a second," he said. "You guys know there can be a lot of stress and a lot of pressure that goes along with this gig and sometimes it’s best to just get away for a second and clear your head.”
Henderson was asked why he believes this is something that he "needed."
"You want to progress," he said. "You want to get better. You want to mature. You want to grow up and you want to do things a certain way. But sometimes you can’t get out of your own way. But I think something like this will give me the opportunity to really step back and look in the mirror and look at my reflection and become happier with the person that I am, and the person that I know I can become. And like I said, I’ve been given a lot of great tools and a lot of resources by the program and by the organization here, something I’m very thankful for. I look forward to showing you guys the improvements of myself.”
Henderson was asked to explain what he meant to be "tools and resources."
"Just to deal with life, man," he said. "Just to deal with the whole life process and dealing with, like I said, the stress and pressure of playing in the NFL. Coming in here and fighting for your job day and day out and what goes with that and what comes along with that. I have a family at home that I have to support and take care of. They’ve done a good job of giving me the chance to reach out to some people and talk to some people who understand better than I do what’s happening and what’s going on that will help me in the future.”
Cornerback A.J. Jefferson was released by the Vikings this morning.
He was jailed this morning at the Hennepin County Public Safety Facility after being arrested on a domestic assault complaint in Eden Prairie.
The Eden Prairie police department released this statement:
At approximately 4:30 a.m. Monday, Nov. 22, a 23-year-old female reported to Eden Prairie Police that she was a victim of domestic assault.
Police arrested Anthony Ray Jefferson, 25, at his residence in Eden Prairie and he is now being held in the Hennepin County Jail on probable cause for domestic assault.
The case is currently under investigation and no further details are available at this time.
Jefferson was in his fourth NFL season. He suffered a neck injury in yesterday's 26-26 tie at Green Bay.
The team announced Jefferson's release in a news release. Coach Leslie Frazier said "I can't really comment on his release or what happens from now on, but we did release him." Frazier also declined to comment when asked followup questions; the Vikings traditionally wait for the legal process to play out before cutting players.
It was the second arrest this month of a Vikings player. Receiver Jerome Simpson was arrested for drunken driving on Nov. 9. Simpson's case is still be kicked around by the NFL office, as he was suspended at the start of last season after a felony drug arrest.
Jefferson was acquired from Arizona last season and played in 15 games, starting seven. He struggled for most of this season with injuries and ineffective play.
SEATTLE -- Vikings wide receiver Greg Jennings is a surprise inactive today against the Seattle Seahawks.
Jennings was listed as probable on the final injury report after dealing with an Achilles injury in practice this week.
Jarius Wright will start in Jennings place.
The Vikings also announced that rookie Cordarrelle Patterson will start in place of Jerome Simpson, who is being benched after being charged with DWI this week.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier hinted several times this week that Simpson could be replaced by Patterson as punishment for his legal trouble.
Quarterback Josh Freeman also is inactive, meaning Matt Cassel will serve as Christian Ponder's backup again.
The other inactives are cornerback Shaun Prater, running back Matt Asiata, offensive guard Jeff Baca, tight end Kyle Rudolph and nose tackle Letroy Guion.
Fred Evans will start in place of Guion, but Frazier said this week that Kevin Williams will get some snaps at that position. Williams recorded 2 1/2 sacks against Washington last week at nose tackle with Guion and Evans sidelined because of injuries.
Vikings wide receiver Jerome Simpson has been formally charged with two counts of DWI following his arrest early Saturday morning.
Simpson faces a gross misdemeanor of DWI third degree (refusing to submit to a chemical test) and a misdemeanor charge of DWI fourth degree (operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol).
His first appearance in Hennepin County court is scheduled for Dec. 11.
Simpson apologized to the team on Monday, although he didn't elaborate on the arrest.
The gross misdemeanor charge has a maximum sentence of one year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine. The misdemeanor has a maximum of 90 days and/or $1,000.
Simpson was arrested early Saturday after a state trooper responded to a stalled car blocking lanes on Interstate 394 out of downtown Minneapolis.
Simpson, who leads the team in receiving yards this season, was taken to the Hennepin County jail, where he refused a breath test. He was booked at 5:39 a.m. and released on $12,000 bond early in the afternoon.
Simpson, 27, was arrested after he exited his Dodge Charger when a trooper arrived at the stalled car. He showed signs of intoxication and flunked a field sobriety test. Simpson denied he was drinking and said he was coming from the Pourhouse, which is in the Lumber Exchange Building on S. 5th Street in downtown Minneapolis.
When Simpson signed with the Vikings in 2012, he was dealing with the repercussions of a three-game suspension by the NFL stemming from a drug arrest and was in the first year of three years’ probation ordered by a Kentucky judge. In April 2012, Simpson was sentenced in Kentucky to 15 days in jail and put on probation for three years, along with 200 hours of community service. He originally was charged there on March 1, 2012, with felony charges after marijuana was shipped to his home in Kentucky. In a plea agreement, authorities agreed that Simpson apparently wanted the marijuana for his own use, and that of his friends. Simpson’s punishment stemmed from a September 2011 crime in which authorities intercepted a package containing 2.5 pounds of marijuana on its way to his house. Police later searched Simpson’s home in northern Kentucky and found six more pounds of marijuana plus drug paraphernalia.
Though the former Cincinnati Bengals receiver originally had been indicted on the felony drug-trafficking charge, Simpson later entered a guilty plea to a lesser felony charge of “being involved in a prohibited act relating to controlled substances.
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