In what can generously be termed a severe blow to the Beloved Purple, Brad Childress informed everyone this afternoon that both LB Heath Farwell and DE Jayme Mitchell tore ACLs in Friday night's loss to Seattle and are done for the 2008 season.
This is the third consecutive year that the Vikings have lost a linebacker in the pre-season opener with a torn ACL. The same injury befell Chad Greenway in 2006 and Rufus Alexander in 2007. Ironically, the Vikings had hoped that Greenway and Alexander would both make significant contributions to the Vikings' defense and got hurt on special teams. Farwell, on the other hand, has made his reputation to this point as a special teamer (he was voted the Vikings' special teams MVP in both 2006 and 2007) and got hurt while playing defense.
Farwell's injury is a significant blow to the Minnesota special teams, to be sure. While it's obviously bad news for Heath Farwell, and we send him our best wishes for a speedy recovery, it's somewhat good news (in a roundabout way) for guys like Vinny Ciurciu, Rufus Alexander, and Erin Henderson, who now have an increased chance to fill Farwell's spot on the roster on both special teams and as a reserve linebacker. I don't think any of them will be able to fully replace Farwell's hustle and coverage ability on kicks and punts, but you never know. . .a few years ago, Farwell was an undrafted rookie just trying to hang on, and he turned into one of the NFL's premiere special teamers. Maybe the next Heath Farwell is already at Winter Park.
The Mitchell injury is a bit disheartening as well. As the blog post from the Star-Tribune tells us, the depth chart at LDE now consists entirely of Ray Edwards and Leger Douzable. Mitchell, if you'll recall, started with the first team at LDE while Edwards was on the PUP list when camp got started. I saw Mitchell limp off of the field the other night against the Seahawks, and as a result didn't think his injury was anything terribly serious. Unfortunately, I was incorrect in my assessment.
Another undrafted free agent that fought his way to a prominent role on the Minnesota defense, Mitchell's injury further weakens a spot that's already been hit with Kenechi Udeze's lukemia diagnosis, as well as an injury to Brian Robison. With as much as the Vikings like to rotate their defensive linemen, we'd better hope that no more injuries hit us at the DE spot in the next few weeks.
We'll have to see how this affects the roster battle at Winter Park. Both Farwell and Mitchell were, obviously, locks for the 53-man roster, and now those spots are both wide open. It's definitely something to keep an eye on over the next couple of weeks.