Vikings LB Brinkley out indefinitely after surgery on hip

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings will be without backup linebacker Jasper Brinkley for a while.

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.

Brinkley led the Vikings with 15 solo special teams tackles last season and was second behind Farwell with 17 combined stops on kick coverages. He was in line to compete with Onatolu and Erin Henderson for the starting weak-side linebacker spot, but the injury ruined his audition.

Frazier is also hoping Thursday night's game will give him some clarity on who should be the backup to starting quarterback Donovan McNabb. Rookie Christian Ponder will play the first half and Joe Webb will be under center for the second half.

"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.

The Vikings will also be looking to establish a starting strong safety for Week 1 in San Diego, with Jamarca Sanford and Tyrell Johnson battling for that spot.

The Texans appear to have most of their key areas shored up, which is why coach Gary Kubiak will play mostly young players in hopes of avoiding any more injuries.

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."

Matt Leinart will start at quarterback for Houston, with T.J. Yates also seeing plenty of time.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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