By Aaron Wilson
The Baltimore Sun
2:28 PM EST, December 5, 2013
It's been a rough stretch for Minnesota Vikings linebacker Erin Henderson, the former University of Maryland standout from Aberdeen.
Henderson lost his starting job at middle linebacker to Audie Cole. The 27-year-old was arrested Nov. 19 in Minnesota on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, but hasn't been charged.
Henderson was active but didn't play during last Sunday's overtime win over the Chicago Bears after missing a Nov. 24 game against the Green Bay Packers for personal issues, five days after his arrest. Henderson told Minnesota reporters the arrest wasn't the reason he missed the Green Bay game.
Now, Henderson is getting back on the field for Sunday's game against the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. He's scheduled to start at weak-side linebacker where he replaces Marvin Mitchell with Cole remaining the starter in the middle, according to Vikings coach Leslie Frazier.
"I'm excited for the opportunity to get back out there," Henderson told Minnesota reporters. "Missed the past couple of weeks. Didn't get any reps last time. Missed the Green Bay game. Just anxious to get back out there on the field, be out there with my guys. Looking forward to any role where I can contribute. ...
"It's a huge thing for me. I didn’t really know how it was going to play out or what was going to happen once everything came out and happened the way it did. It's another chance, another opportunity."
In 10 starts this season, Henderson has recorded 93 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions.
Henderson said he's in a positive state of mind despite his troubles this season.
"I'm a lot better," he said. "I've taken a lot of strides. When you do that self-reflection and look at yourself in the mirror and see the person looking back at you, right now I'm comfortable with that guy. I like the person that I see. My teammates enjoy me.
"With everything that's been happening I don't feel like I've lost their respect or their love around here. That's been huge for me to continue to have their support. My mental state's where it's supposed to be, probably a lot better than it has been in a long time."
Henderson said he reminds himself every day that he has a lot to be grateful for.
"I wake up every morning telling myself I'm going to be happy and I'm not going to let the outside world and other people dictate to me my mood, how I feel and how I go about my day," Henderson said. "I have a lot of things to be happy about and thankful for aside from all the naysayers and haters everybody else who's had different things to say about me throughout the year. Sometimes I let it get to me and get down too much.
"I've come to grips with it and come to terms with it and I'm able to look at myself and know the man that I am and accept it."
However, Henderson said it's been hard not to take some of the criticism personally.
"It can be tough," Henderson said. "Because I go out there every Sunday and I play my guts out, leave it on the line for my teammates and myself as well. So when you get some negative feedback, it can be kind of a tough pill to swallow.
"But then you learn some of those people are idiots, sitting behind computers and phones saying whatever they want to say and you can't give it too much credit. Take it with a grain of salt and continue to move forward."
He's even made a decision to stay off of Twitter.
I don't really go on there too much," Henderson said. "I thought about deleting my account but that's giving them even more satisfaction. I still have my account but it's not on my phone so I don't check it as often and I don't tweet out too much.
"There are a lot of good people out there. I get a lot of positive feedback as well. I don't think I give that enough credit or appreciation for the people who are talking well about me and who do have things to say about me. It can be kind of difficult to see sometimes with so much negativity coming your way."
In his sixth NFL season, Henderson has 269 career tackles, 7.5 sacks and four forced fumbles.
Henderson still hopes to regain his spot at middle linebacker.
"I still want to play [middle linebacker]," Henderson said. "I think I was doing a pretty good job at it. I think I was coming into my own, the defense and all the guys were starting to rally around. Unfortunately, incidents happen and the next guy up. I've got to go out there and do my part to help the team."