Ex-Viking Erin Henderson says he showed up to practices hung over

Categories: Vikings
HendersonMugshot2.jpg
Henderson's Carver County mugshot following his January 1 arrest.
It's hard enough to perform at an NFL level as it is. But can you imagine trying to do so while still reeling from last night's booze bender?

That's the situation former Vikings linebacker Erin Henderson says he was in last season before he was arrested for DWI and pot possession on November 19 and then again on January 1.

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"There would be times where I would come to practice hung over," Henderson told USA Today's Tom Pelissero. "Never just fresh off of drinking coming into practice. But I might have had a rough night the night before, and I'd be in front of the huddle calling plays. And everybody would know that I had been out drinking the night before."

Henderson acknowledged his drinking and pot smoking probably affected his performance negatively, but said he'd "been doing it for so long and it's something that I had gotten used to."

Henderson, 27 and looking for another NFL job, says those days are in the past, however. He checked himself into the Hazelden immediately after he was released from custody following his second arrest. In a lengthy letter he wrote for TMZ, he says he's now sober and characterizes the arrests as the best thing that ever happened to him.

Here's an unedited excerpt from Henderson's letter:
When I was arrested for a DUI twice within a month span followed by being released by the Minnesota Vikings, I immediately felt panic, my mind ran to feelings of abandonment and neglect. I was fearful of my mistake and that my weak moment would not only taint my family's legacy but my own brand that I work so hard and persistent to make sure is pure and respectful. I prayed I would be forgiven, I asked for clarity, a new heart, mind and soul. And followed by my answered prayers I was given an opportunity to seek help, and embrace that I not only a professional athlete but a Father and Husband, had done something that would represent ugliness, judgment and desertion. But I could either sink or swim, and overcome this circumstance and learn from my mistake and emerge back into the world stronger and vast then ever.

Individuals with adversity must hit their rock bottom before they decide to make a change. For me that was January 1, 2014 when my life as I knew it came to a screeching halt. As I look back on it I cannot be more grateful. I was arrested and spent almost 24 hrs in a holding cell and had nothing but time to think about the path my life was heading down. Coach fraizer would often tell us "show me your vision and I can show you your future." That night I had a vision of my future and knew I had to do something to better it. It was at that moment I realized I could not do it on my own and made the decision to seek the help I needed. I was released January 2nd at around 2pm. By 4pm I was packed up and headed to Hazelden in Center City.
Henderson's next court hearing is scheduled for next month. In the USA Today interview, he said he drank and smoked pot as a way of "numbing things" and looks forward to catching on with another team and showing what he can do now that he's sober.

"That's one of the things I'm most curious about -- what happens when I can remove a lot of my off-field issues and just play with a clear mind and actually enjoy the game like I used to?" he said.

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at arupar@citypages.com.



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