Defensive end re-injures left knee after year of rehab

Updated: December 7, 2007, 6:48 PM ET
Associated Press

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- What already had been a difficult week for the Minnesota Vikings defensive line got even tougher on Friday when end Erasmus James was placed on injured reserve for the second time in the last 14 months.

The 18th overall selection in the 2005 draft will need surgery again to repair the ACL in his left knee.

Erasmus James

James

James, injured early in Sunday's game against Detroit, first tore his left ACL in Week 2 last season. He missed the rest of the year and a good portion of 2007 working his way back into shape.

After several setbacks, it appeared he was back on track when he finally reclaimed his starting spot at left defensive end against the Lions. Minnesota coach Brad Childress said James "had an episode" on the third or fourth play of the game but was able to finish. An MRI revealed the injury.

Childress said it was tough to see James injured so quickly after a long and arduous rehab.

"He just kept pushing and pushing and pushing through there," Childress said. "He was to the point where he could put it on the field and bring it pretty good, and it just tells you how fragile those things are."

It was the second significant blow to the Vikings defensive line this week. Ray Edwards, who started the first 11 games before giving way to James last week, was suspended Wednesday for violating the NFL's policy on steroids.

The Vikings (6-6) will turn to rookie Brian Robison and second-year pro Jayme Mitchell to fill in for James, who is arguably the most naturally gifted pass rusher on the team.

"For us, it's frustrating to watch a guy work as hard as he has to get back and, obviously, you'd never wish that to happen to somebody one time," said linebacker Chad Greenway, who also had major knee surgery early last season and spent 2006 on the shelf. "But to have it done twice, in this short amount of time, it's really unfortunate."

Childress said the injury is not career threatening and he expects James to make a full recovery.

In the mean time, Robison and Mitchell are left to pick up the slack on a suddenly thin defensive line, starting with Sunday's game in San Francisco.

Robison is second on the team with 4½ sacks, but he has managed just 1½ in the past eight games. Mitchell recorded his first sack of the season last week against Detroit.

"I'm looking forward to the opportunity to help this team win and make an impact in any way possible," Mitchell said Friday after getting the news. "Just get after that quarterback and play great football to help this team win."

Greenway spoke to James this week and said he is in relatively good spirits despite the long road of surgery and rehabilitation that awaits him.

"We just have to stay behind him, keep him as part of the team," Greenway said. "If we can keep him around, keep him in meetings and keep him being a part of this, that's going to help him a lot going into the offseason. Hopefully he'll get right for next year."

Notes:
The Vikings promoted LB David Herron from the practice squad to take James' place on the active roster. ... LB E.J. Henderson returned to practice on Friday after missing the previous two with an illness. Childress said Henderson is questionable for the 49ers. ... S Mike Doss (hamstring) and S Tank Williams (knee) are doubtful. WR Troy Williamson (concussion) and backup G Artis Hicks (back) are questionable.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press