Cole earns Vikings starting spot at middle linebacker over Henderson

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 27, 2013 - 7:59 PM

Regardless of Erin Henderson’s personal issues and his Nov. 19 arrest on charges of drunken driving and possession of a controlled substance, the on-the-field bottom line is this:

Audie Cole, the guy who was released three weeks ago to make room for a third offensive tackle in the Washington game, has beaten Henderson out for the starting middle linebacker job for Sunday’s game against the Bears at Mall of America Field. That’s what happens when a backup steps in with 18 tackles and a sack in his NFL debut against the Packers at Lambeau Field.

“Well, Audie earned — from my perspective, along with our coaches’ — the right to start this ballgame,” coach Leslie Frazier said. “We came back on Monday, looked at the tape and verified some of the things that we saw in the game. And you say, ‘How do you just sit this guy down and not give him a chance to show if he can continue this?’ So we made the decision based on the way he performed, and we’ll get a chance to see him play this Sunday and see how he does.”

Frazier also said Henderson would not be moved back to weakside linebacker, where he started before this season.

Corner depth concerns

The Vikings have three options at cornerback if they feel they need more depth heading into Sunday’s game. One option is giving some snaps to Shaun Prater, who has played well on special teams since being signed on Oct. 22.

“I think he’s up to speed enough now where we could put him in for some snaps on defense,” Frazier said. “He hasn’t been with us that long, but we’ve been force-feeding him along the way. So we think he could get in the game and function.”

Other options would include promoting a practice squad player. The Vikings have two corners on their practice squad, Robert Steeples and Kip Edwards, a 6-1, 195-pounder who was signed this week.

Cassel remembers

Sunday is the anniversary of the murder-suicide tragedy involving former Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher. Belcher fatally shot his girlfriend before driving to team headquarters to commit suicide in front of then-coach Romeo Crennel and former General Manager Scott Pioli.

“I just remember coming into the stadium,” said Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel, who was with Kansas City last year. “Police were everywhere. Helicopters. … So we sat there in the locker room and nobody really knew what was going on.

“Then coach Crennel, I remember coming in. … I just remember it kind of takes the breath out of you, the emotion of it. So there was crying. A moment of silence. We said a prayer.”

Etc.

• Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes and receiver Joe Webb both passed the first stage of the NFL’s protocol for returning from a concussion. They underwent the exertion test Wednesday and will be cleared to return if they are symptom-free on Thursday.

• Safety Harrison Smith, who is on injured reserve with the designation to return, won’t be eligible to return to practice until Friday. Smith is eligible to play in the final three games.

• Kicker Blair Walsh was named NFC special teams player of the week after his success managing the challenges that come with kicking in single-digit windchill weather on the grass at Lambeau. “The cold was definitely restricting the ball flight a little bit,” said Walsh, who made all four field-goal attempts, including a long of 47. “It would probably knock it down anywhere from 5-10 yards. We did a good job during the week in getting practice just outside in conditions like that. I think when the game happened, we were ready for it.”

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Kansas City - LP: B. Chen 1 FINAL
Cleveland - WP: C. Kluber 5
Cincinnati - WP: T. Cingrani 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: B. Cumpton 1
Chicago WSox - LP: J. Quintana 4 FINAL
Detroit - WP: M. Scherzer 7
St. Louis - LP: L. Lynn 1 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: B. Colon 4
Minnesota - WP: R. Nolasco 9 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: E. Bedard 7
Arizona - WP: M. Bolsinger 5 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: E. Jackson 2
San Diego 3 Top 12th Inning
Washington 3
Baltimore - WP: B. Norris 11 FINAL
Toronto - LP: B. Cecil 4
NY Yankees 14 Bottom 9th Inning
Boston 5
Oakland 10 Bottom 7th Inning
Houston 1
Philadelphia 0 Bottom 3rd Inning
Los Angeles 0
Indiana 85 FINAL
Atlanta 98
Oklahoma City 95 1st OT 0:01
Memphis 98
LA Clippers 10 1st Qtr 5:20
Golden State 13
Boston 2 1st OT 9:43
Detroit 2
Colorado 1 2nd Prd 6:35
Minnesota 2
San Jose 0 1st Prd 9:23
Los Angeles 1
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2013 preseason     
Aug 9 - vs. Houston 7 pmX27-13
Aug 16 - at Buffalo 6 pmX20-16
Aug 25 - at San Francisco 7 pmX34-14
Aug 29 - vs. Tennessee 7 pmX24-23
2013 regular season     
Sep 8 - at Detroit NoonX34-24
Sep 15 - at Chicago NoonX31-30
Sep 22 - vs. Cleveland NoonX31-27
Sep 29 - vs. Pittsburgh (in London) NoonX34-27
Oct 6 - Bye
Oct 13 - vs. Carolina NoonX35-10
Oct 21 - at. NY Giants 7:40 pmX23-7
Oct 27 - vs. Green Bay 7:30 pmX44-31
Nov 3 - at Dallas NoonX27-23
Nov 7 - vs. Washington 7:25 pmX34-27
Nov 17 - at Seattle 3:25 pmX41-20
Nov. 24 - at Green Bay Noon26-26
Dec 1 - vs. Chicago NoonX23-20
Dec 8 - at Baltimore NoonX29-26
Dec 15 - vs. Philadelphia NoonX48-30
Dec 22 - at Cincinnati NoonX42-14
Dec 29 - vs. Detroit NoonX14-13

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