Head coach Leslie Frazier confirmed Wednesday in an email message that Brinkley had surgery Tuesday on his hip. Brinkley has been bothered by the injury for much of training camp and hasn't been at full speed.
Frazier said he'd elaborate on Brinkley's condition and status after Thursday's preseason game against Houston. Reached by phone Wednesday, Brinkley declined to comment.
The Vikings have two standouts at linebacker, Chad Greenway and E.J. Henderson, and an emerging starter in Henderson's younger brother, Erin. But their depth has taken a hit this month, with Brinkley, Heath Farwell, Kenny Onatolu and Ross Homan all getting hurt. The damage was enough to prompt the Vikings to use defensive end Everson Griffen at linebacker in some packages in practice this week, and defensive coordinator Fred Pagac said Griffen would play both positions Thursday against the Texans.
Farwell has been slowed by a strained hamstring. Onatolu recently returned from a stress fracture in his foot. Homan suffered a concussion. The Vikings signed David Herron last week and also have undrafted rookie Larry Dean in reserve at that position, with the spate of injuries making Dean a strong candidate to make the roster. Dean was the NCAA Division II Defensive Player of the Year at Valdosta State.
Brinkley is the only true middle linebacker behind Henderson, and the fifth-round draft pick from South Carolina took over as the starter in December 2009 when Henderson broke his leg. Brinkley held that spot during the playoffs that season, and he has appeared in all 32 regular-season games of his career.
"We definitely want to see both guys, Christian along with Joe, create some separation for that number two spot and maybe this game will be an indication of which guy should be number two," Frazier said.
Kubiak said he is looking for clarity in the crowded defensive backfield and also hopes to get running back Steve Slaton some work as he returns from his own hamstring injury that has bothered him for most of August.
"I think our veteran guys have had a good preseason. This turnaround from a San Francisco trip to a Minnesota trip has been very difficult on the guys," Kubiak said. "We haven't been able to do much leading up to this game. I want to keep some guys healthy and I want to find out about the other guys, so with that in mind, you won't see many veterans play."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press