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Photo - Aj Mansour (KFAN)
By: Joe Nelson | KFAN.com
Mankato, MN - After starting 11 games at outside linebacker in 2011, Erin Henderson is ready to take the next step of his NFL career in 2012. This time around, however, Henderson is more prepared.
"Last year my understanding was a little shaky at times and I think it showed on the field," he told KFAN's Paul Allen. "This year those are the problems and the things that I need to erase in order to be the best linebacker I can possibly be."
Like most players last season, Henderson entered the year without a normal offseason. The NFL Lockout forced him to sit and wait through the summer rather than soak up a playbook and develop chemistry with his teammates. Despite that, he finished with 91 tackles, good for fourth on the team.
Now that he's gone through a full offseason of organized team activities, minicamp and half of training camp, Henderson feels like he's headed toward a much better season.
"I've been playing well. I think I've been doing some things better. Taking in my coaching and doing a better job of applying it out there on the field. I think it's been paying off thus far. I think the coaches are happy with what they see. I'm happy with what I'm seeing. But I know there's still room for improvement, and I'm excited for that opportunity."
But Henderson isn't content with a starting job in the NFL. He wants to help calm the worried Viking fans who question his ability to be a weekly starter. He wants to let everyone who ever doubted him that they were wrong.
"It's the whole going un-drafted thing. The having to sit and wait for three years before I had a chance to play," he said. "You want to go out there and you want to prove everybody wrong, but more importantly you want to prove yourself right. I know what I'm capable of doing and at this point I just want to put my best foot forward and go out there and prove it on the field."
The key to the Vikings' success in 2012 will rely heavily on health. There's no question the defense lacks depth at linebacker and in the secondary. Although Henderson believes the role players will be able to hold their own, he agrees the team has a "very thin margin of error."
"Everybody is gonna be important, everybody is gonna be crucial and everybody is gonna have a part to play and its just a matter of doing it when you step out here."