Henson back in NFL, joins Vikes' practice squad

Updated: September 28, 2006, 3:09 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

In need of a third quarterback to help shoulder some of the practice workload, the Minnesota Vikings on Wednesday signed free agent Drew Henson, who was released by the Dallas Cowboys last month, to their practice squad.

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Normally, such a practice squad transaction would barely be noted. But the move could represent another opportunity for Henson -- the former University of Michigan star who bypassed his final two seasons of college football eligibility to sign a contract with the New York Yankees as a third baseman and then abandoned his pursuit of a baseball career after three years in the minor leagues -- to demonstrate that he is an NFL-caliber quarterback.

If nothing else, a source close to Henson said on Wednesday, the deal with the Vikings will allow the young quarterback to get back into a daily football routine and to receive regular work in practices.

"It didn't work out for him for whatever reason in Dallas," Vikings head coach Brad Childress told The Associated Press. "He's got a strong arm. He's big in stature. He's got a great mind. He's a very smart, very intelligent guy. You like all those things."

Minnesota sought a third quarterback after rookie Tarvaris Jackson underwent Monday arthroscopic knee surgery to repair damage to the meniscus cartilage. The procedure is expected to sideline Jackson, a second-round draft choice who was No. 3 on the depth chart and had not played in a regular-season game, for four to six weeks.

The loss of Jackson left the Vikings with just two quarterbacks, starter Brad Johnson and backup Brooks Bollinger, on the roster.

It is not yet known if the Vikings plan to elevate Henson to the active roster or merely keep him on the practice squad for insurance. Childress indicated Monday that he was concerned about having Johnson and Bollinger handle all of the practice snaps, including those for the scout team.

The Vikings released offensive lineman C.J. Brooks from the practice squad to create an opening for Henson.

Henson, 26, auditioned for the Miami Dolphins earlier this week and had worked out for the Indianapolis Colts last week. It is believed that several other teams were interested in having him in for workouts. Some personnel directors had already indicated that, if they did not sign Henson this season, they would consider bringing him to training camp next summer.

Once regarded as the Cowboys' quarterback for the future, Henson was released in late August after coach Bill Parcells said he "just didn't see enough in him" during his three years with the team. Henson was acquired by the Cowboys from the Houston Texans in 2003 for a third-round draft choice. Houston chose Henson in the sixth round of the 2002 draft, after indications he was prepared to abandon his baseball career and return to the football field.

Dallas signed Henson to an eight-year contract that included guarantees of $3.5 million. The team owed Henson nearly $3 million when it released him.

In seven regular-season appearances -- and just one start -- Henson completed 10-of-18 passes for 78 yards, with one touchdown pass and one interception. His lone start came in the Thanksgiving Day game in 2004, but Parcells replaced Henson at halftime.

Henson played in the NFL Europe League this spring in an effort to expand his experience, but his performances were uneven and did not impress the Cowboys' staff.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.