Henderson wants to remain in Minnesota
FEB 05, 2013 4:00a ET
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — When Minnesota Vikings linebacker Erin Henderson thinks about the possibility and hope of signing a long-term contract in the NFL, the emotions of the situation become evident.
Henderson doesn't break down, but the pride he will feel in signing his first big contract can be sensed through his voice, his words measured. Henderson, who's spent the past five seasons in Minnesota working his way from a special teams player into a two-year starter, hopes he can sign and stay with the Vikings.
But when Henderson cleaned out his locker last month at the team's facilities at Winter Park, he wasn't sure if he would be returning next season.
"I can't even stand to think about it right now," Henderson said on locker cleanout day following Minnesota's playoff loss at Green Bay. "I just hope my body of work speaks for itself and is enough. I just want to take care of my family, be able to do some of the things I've always dreamed of being able to do. I feel like I'm close to it and just hope it can get done."
Henderson, 26, wants to remain with Minnesota. He also knows the business of the NFL. He received a strong lesson in the business side of the game last year when he also hit free agency. The Vikings had interest in re-signing Henderson, who was coming off his first year as a full-time starter and looking to cash in for the first time as a free agent.
Minnesota let Henderson test the market, and the linebacker didn't receive the type of interest he was hoping for. Henderson felt he deserved a long-term contract. The Vikings seemed willing to let him him reach free agency and set the market, which was limited for linebackers last year. A contentious search ended up with Henderson choosing to sign a one-year, $2 million to return to the team he knew and wanted to be with all along.
Back as the starting weakside linebacker in 2012, Henderson had a career-high 105 tackles with three sacks and a forced fumble while splitting time with Jasper Brinkley as the nickel linebacker alongside Chad Greenway. Henderson started the season in the role but missed two games with injury and had to earn it back. He did and believes he's proved his worth again to the team who originally signed him in 2008 as a rookie free agent out of Maryland.
Henderson enters free agency again this year in much the same position he did last time. Again, he'd like to return to Minnesota.
"It's all I know," Henderson said. "I've called Minnesota home. I have a Minnesota license now, everything. So, I feel like I've built a pretty good foundation here. I've come a long way in the five years I've been a part of this organization. I appreciate the time and effort they've put into me. I look forward to giving back to them the opportunities they've afforded me to play."
The Vikings haven't re-signed any pending free agents, and Henderson might again reach free agency in March. General manager Rick Spielman expected contracts with current players would take focus in late February at the annual Combine.
"We've talked to some agents," Spielman said in regards to all of the team's players. "We've talked to some agents before the season, and sometimes we'll just say, 'Let's wait until the season ends.' I know as we get through this process, we'll be having a lot of meetings down at the Combine on particular guys that we want to try to extend or either get re-done. It will be a busy Combine."
And if Henderson is rewarded, with the Vikings or elsewhere, with a long-term deal, he knows what his biggest purchase will be.
"I've always wanted to own a house," Henderson said. "But I want my house to be laid out. I want my house to be my home, my palace. So I've been very patient with that and other than that, it's just pretty much making sure that generations after me can have something."
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