EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. As one of several potential free agents this offseason, Minnesota Vikings linebacker E.J. Henderson understands the importance of the season's final two games as well as anyone.
There's a lot at stake for Minnesota (2-12), which is trying to avoid the worst record in team history. Henderson also knows something far more impactful on the players, coaches and staff will follow these last two games. Everything and everyone will be evaluated intensely after such a disappointing season.
"These last two games is pretty much going to be to finish up your resume for this year," Henderson said. "It's going to be the last impression coaches have for you. Coach is stressing that to us. I'm stressing that to the young guys and I think everybody is focused on these Redskins."
Defensive end Jared Allen acknowledged the inevitable after Sunday's 42-20 loss at home to the New Orleans Saints when he said, "A lot of people probably are going to get fired anyways."
With a road game at Washington (5-9) on Saturday and the season-finale at home against Chicago (7-7) on Jan. 1, many of the Vikings realize they are playing for their professional lives the next two weeks.
A third of the roster is filled with pending free agents, including Henderson and his brother, starting linebacker Erin Henderson. Both have said they would like to return, but they know even these last two games are an audition for their next contract with Minnesota, or elsewhere.
"I think there's a lot at stake from a team standpoint and from an individual standpoint as well, " Erin Henderson said. "They're watching closely right now to see who's still fighting, who's still coming out here trying to give their best and give it their all, and look to see who they can build this team with next year and continue to move forward with."
Frazier has reportedly received a vote of confidence from ownership. Frazier said he hasn't talked about his future with ownership, but isn't concerned with next season right now. Even with the current backing of ownership, if the Vikings are non-competitive and ill-prepared for the next two games, anything could happen.
"This is a league that many people know has a lot of turnover and things are going to happen in a hurry," linebacker Chad Greenway said of looking at the upcoming offseason. "So everybody is out there fighting, trying to keep their job and it's not that easy in this league to do that. It's out there and you're just fighting, trying to play well and coach well and try and do things the right way."
While two wins would alter the outlook and, perhaps, some of the offseason moves, two more losses might be the best thing for the long-term health of the franchise. Minnesota currently holds the No. 2 draft position, but much can change the final two weeks.
Indianapolis (1-13) earned its first win of the season last week and is still in position for the top pick. The Vikings are tied with St. Louis (2-12), but actually have the better position based on the weaker strength of the schedule. Three teams are tied at 4-10.
While Minnesota's current players don't want to accept the reality, securing the best possible draft pick would be crucial for a team desperate for talent infusion at several key positions, including offensive line and the secondary.
Frazier has also said the next two games are vital for rookie quarterback Christian Ponder. The No. 12 pick in this year's draft, Ponder has started eight games in his first season without the benefit of offseason preparation due to the lockout. After two strong starts though, Ponder's play has regressed and the team's staff is hoping to see something the final two weeks from their "quarterback of the future."
While Ponder's job would appear to be safe, not many players have such assurances.
"Any time you have a season like this with two wins so far, I'm sure there's going to be some change in the offseason," E.J. Henderson said. "I think everybody, like I said, come out and show what you can do these last two games, put some good tape on, so hopefully when the coaches watching the film you're not one of those guys that are exiting."
Griffin to be worked back in: Frazier indicated cornerback Cedric Griffin would likely be worked back into the lineup for Saturday's game at Washington.
Griffin had started the first 12 games of the season before being benched against the Detroit Lions two weeks ago. Griffin was active for Sunday's loss to the Saints, but didn't play on defense even after cornerback Asher Allen left the game with a concussion.
"We just talked about what we need and the fact that I have confidence he can get this job done," Frazier said. "I know he can. I've seen him do it before. He's got to have that same confidence. He'll have an opportunity this week to help our club and I'm sure he'll do well. I believe he'll do well."