Erin Henderson maintains his status as man in the middle

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — With reports swirling about the Minnesota Vikings’ interest in recently released inside linebacker Desmond Bishop, Erin Henderson offered a reminder following the first day of the team’s mandatory minicamp.

“I’m playing the Mike,” Henderson said.

It’s Henderson who moved from his starting spot as weakside linebacker for the past two seasons into the middle of the Vikings’ 4-3 defense, a move Henderson prepped for all offseason.  Yet, ever since Bishop was released by the Green Bay Packers on Monday, he’s been linked to solve the Vikings’ linebacker woes.

Bishop told FOX Sports Wisconsin that his first visit with another team this week is with Minnesota, though he has other visits lined up. Reports are that the Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars are also interested in Bishop, 28, who missed all of last season with a torn hamstring.

Though Bishop has spoken publicly about his visit with the Vikings, with a reported workout scheduled for Wednesday, Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier refused to confirm if the team was meeting with Bishop and said any possible talks would have no reflection on Henderson or the other linebackers.

“Well, I wouldn’t want to verify any reports,” Frazier said. “You know (general manager Rick Spielman) and his staff, they do a great job of bringing in guys throughout the year, and it’ll be ongoing. We’ll be bringing in guys to work out all the time.

“At whatever position we bring guys in, it’s usually not a reflection of that position. It is just ongoing. We’re always trying to have a database and do whatever we can to help our football team, so no reflection on our team. I wouldn’t read much into our roster when we work guys out, because it’s something we’re always doing.”

Bishop, who led Green Bay with 115 tackles in 2011, says he’s completely recovered from the torn hamstring he suffered in August 2011. A healthy Bishop would seemingly help a Vikings’ defense that lost Jasper Brinkley, last year’s starting middle linebacker, to the Arizona Cardinals in free agency.

“I think, as a veteran, you have to welcome guys like that with open arms,” linebacker Chad Greenway said. “He’s a very talented player, has proven that in his career. If that’s the direction of the organization, that’s the direction we go as a locker room. It’s just kind of the way it is. You open up with open arms to feel welcome because he can help us, and that’s how you win Super Bowls.”

Even with Henderson’s move inside, Minnesota still needs someone to fill a starting role, taking Henderson’s spot outside.  So far, veteran Marvin Mitchell has been taking the first-team snaps on the outside. The Vikings also selected Penn State outside linebacker Gerald Hodges in the fourth round of April’s draft.

Since organized team activities began last month, Henderson has focused solely on middle linebacker. While he maintained his job is now in the middle, Henderson said he would welcome Bishop.

“It’s cool,” Henderson said of the reports. “I hope it goes well for him, the Vikings like what they see. Welcome him with open arms, welcome him to the team. Not really sure what it’s about. I’m just employee No. 50, baby. I just come out here and do what they ask me to do on the field.”

And if Henderson was asked to go back outside if Bishop signed?

“That’s a lot of ifs,” Henderson said. “I don’t really want to think about it that way. I have a chance to play Mike now, I don’t see why I would let it slip out of my hands or let it go any other way. So, that’s what my mindset is and that’s what I’m thinking.”

Frazier said he’s been pleased with the way Henderson has taken control in the middle since making the move.

“I think he’s shown more command of the defensive huddle than we expected early on,” Frazier said. “You can see that he has a lot of control, and the guys really respect everything that he’s trying to get done. I like his movement. I like the way he’s moving around and getting to spots in zone coverages. It’s a little bit tougher from a run standpoint because we don’t have pads on and you can’t be as physical, but I like some of the things he’s doing in pass coverage as well.”

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