Sources: Johnson to get start for Vikings

Updated: December 6, 2006, 4:27 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Although coach Brad Childress refused to publicly tip his hand again on Wednesday about the identity of the Minnesota Vikings' starting quarterback on Sunday, sources told ESPN.com that incumbent Brad Johnson is all but certain to retain the job for at least another week.

Quarterback
Minnesota Vikings

Profile
2006 SEASON STATISTICS
Att Comp Yds TD Int Rat
399 245 2314 8 14 71.2

Johnson worked with the first-unit offense on Wednesday, as backup Brooks Bollinger was sidelined by a separated left (non-throwing) shoulder that figures to keep him out of Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions.

Childress acknowledged that he has informed the quarterbacks of who will start, but did not want to announce his decision.

It's likely that Bollinger, who relieved the struggling Johnson in last week's loss to the Chicago Bears, might have been elevated to the top of the depth chart, if healthy.

In need of a third quarterback to help shoulder some of the practice workload for at least the rest of this week, the Vikings on Wednesday signed free agent Drew Henson, who was with the team for two weeks earlier this season, to the practice squad. To create a spot for Henson, the Vikings released guard Jimmy Martin from the practice squad.

The move represents 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 be able to work in a structured environment as he continues to seek opportunities for 2007.

Minnesota signed Henson to the practice squad in late September, when rookie quarterback Tarvaris Jackson underwent arthroscopic knee surgery to repair damage to the meniscus cartilage. When Jackson was healthy, Henson was released on Oct. 10, and he has been out of work since then.

Once regarded as the Dallas 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 with 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 NFL Europe this spring in an effort to expand his experience, but his performances were uneven and did not impress the Cowboys' staff.

The Vikings have lost five of their last six games to drop to 5-7, and are in danger of falling out of the wild card chase even in the diluted NFC, where just five of 16 teams own winning records. The Minnesota offense has sputtered, particularly the passing game, and Johnson has only eight touchdown passes and 14 interceptions.

Childress reiterated several times this season that he will not tolerate turnovers, but with Bollinger ailing and Jackson probably not quite ready for his first regular-season start, the Vikings' coach has limited options.

Johnson, 38, has started all 12 games, but the 15-year veteran seems to be eroding as the season wears on, and his lack of arm strength is becoming a more glaring issue. In Sunday's 23-13 loss, Johnson, under heavy pressure from the outset, completed 11 of 26 passes for just 73 yards, with no touchdown passes, four interceptions, and a passer rating of 10.3.

A second-round draft choice from Alabama State, Jackson is viewed as the team's quarterback of the future and could be a candidate to start as early as 2007. He may get some playing time before the conclusion of this season, but Childress seems reluctant to use him now, with the Vikings still technically alive for a wild card spot.

Jackson saw brief playing time in one game this season, and he completed three of four passes for 35 yards.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.