August 12, 2010 6:41 PM
Training Camp ended Thursday for the Minnesota Vikings and players are leaving Mankato to prepare for their first preseason game. South Dakotans have been pretty lucky to watch two hometown guys start every week at linebacker for the Vikings. But don't forget about that third guy in the linebacking corps either.
Sacks, interceptions and big hits. Those are the three things you'll see a lot of from the Vikings linebackers this season.
"I feel that we have arguably the best group of linebackers in the league," said Def. Coordinator Leslie Frazier. "Chad is really, really coming along and playing at a high level. I really expect him to be a candidate for the Pro Bowl this next season. And Ben with his veteran experience, he just makes so many plays for us because of his knowledge of the game and his savvy."
Behind one of the best defensive lines in the NFL, Minnesota's linebackers have become formidable in their own right.
"We're really deep at linebacker, we're deep at a lot of positions and that creates a lot of confidence for our team and for our fan base I'm sure," said Linebacker and Mt. Vernon native Chad Greenway.
The linebacking corps has been together for a few years now and while people in South Dakota like to point to the accomplishments of hometown heroes Chad Greenway and Ben Leber, those two guys know that middle linebacker E.J. Henderson is the heart and soul of the defense.
"It's really inspirational to see him come back through all the adversity even from the year before," said linebacker and Vermillion native Ben Leber. "He's just really battled and shown a lot of spirit and a true role model for everybody."
"Obviously he's a great player," said Greenway. "But I think we miss him more for his leadership. He brings so much to the table that way. He's silent to most people, but in the huddle he's a very vocal guy and we rely on that, especially in critical situations."
"I expect to come back the same way I left out," said Henderson. "Putting up some decent numbers, but most importantly we want to be the best defense in the league, so as a whole, as a defensive unit, that's our goal and I think that's what we're gonna shoot for."
The only real downfall for Henderson is that he's never been to South Dakota.
"If we ever get some time off we need to go back and go pheasant hunting with him," said Leber.
As long as these three are hunting quarterbacks and loose footballs, it doesn't matter where they're from. They'll just keep racking up sacks, interceptions and big hits.
The Vikings face the Rams Saturday night at 7 p.m. to open their 2010 preseason.