In an interview in mid-March, middle linebacker E.J. Henderson said he's determined to be ready for training camp after suffering a fractured femur in his left leg on Dec. 6.
It's impossible to predict if that timetable for recovery is realistic or when Henderson will be ready to play football again. Given that uncertainty, second-year middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley said he's preparing this offseason as if he'll be the starter again once the season starts.
"I have to approach it just like I finished off," he said Wednesday. "Not knowing his situation right now, I just have to be prepared so if it does come down to me starting the season off I'll be ready."
Predictably, Brinkley looked good at times and inexperienced at others when he replaced Henderson as rookie. The Vikings were patient with him, knowing Brinkley was put into a tough situation, especially in pass coverage.
Brinkley finished with 32 tackles, one tackle for loss and three quarterback hurries. He clearly was more comfortable as a run stopper than he was in pass coverage. The Vikings said Brinkley did a solid job in making the pre-snap calls to get everyone positioned properly.
"I have a lot to go off from last season," he said. "There's definitely a couple of things that I can get better at now that I have a year under my belt."
Brinkley said his comfort level with everything is much better now, which he thinks will translate into how he plays on the field.
"It's definitely a great feeling just to know that this year I can play faster," he said. "I can go harder and go longer. I know what to expect. That's something that I was definitely thinking about the whole offseason. I feel comfortable coming into this year."
Specifically, Brinkley hopes that comfort level helps him in pass coverage.
"When I first talked to coach [Leslie] Frazier when I got to start, he said there are a couple of things are going to be in the gray area with you, but it all comes with experience," he said. "I feel I did decent but there's always room for improvement."
Brinkley said he talks to Henderson every day and that he continues to learn from him.
"His spirits are high," Brinkley said. "I'm pretty sure he's working hard to get back."
UPDATE: The Vikings announced that they have waived wide receiver Vinny Perretta, who spent last season on the practice squad.