Anyone who has heard Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier talk about E.J. Henderson knows that he has a close relationship with his middle linebacker and defensive captain.
Frazier said in training camp that seeing Henderson back on the field “made my heart feel good” after he suffered a season-ending foot injury in Week 4 a year ago. So it’s no surprise that Frazier was still emotional during his weekly press conference Thursday about losing Henderson to a devastating leg injury on Sunday.
“That was really hard,” Frazier said. “When I saw him on that ground and I could see him motioning, it almost seemed like he was looking directly at me motioning for me to come and get him. It was just extremely hard and it’s hard to deal with, even now, because he was really beginning to play at that E.J. level and doing all of the things that we had grown accustomed to seeing prior to his previous injury. So to find out the extent of it and what it may mean is just very disheartening.
“I spoke to him soon after the surgery and he really encouraged me just listening to him talk. He was in a great mood, even though he was still a little bit sedated. He was just encouraging me to encourage the guys to not be worried about him, but just get ready for our next opponent. He just wanted us to know that he was going to be fine. It’s a tremendous loss for our football team, but we got a young guy in Jasper Brinkley who is going to step up and do a good job for us. But you just hate for E.J. because he is a great player and a great person as well. We’ll miss him.”
Like everyone else, Frazier said it’s too early to speculate if/when Henderson might return to football after fracturing his femur.
“From everything that I’ve been told there is a good chance that he can come back,” Frazier said. “He’s got a long road ahead of him, which he is well aware of. It’s a pretty extensive injury, but there have been others that have made it back in other sports, in hockey, in baseball, and it’s happened in football. So it’s just going to take some time. It’s going to take quite a while, but he can come back.”