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Griffen aiming for 20 sacks this year

Dec 10, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen (97) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Vikings 23-20. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS—Only 11 times in NFL history has a player recorded 20 sacks in a season. Everson Griffen apparently is aiming to make it a dozen.

The Vikings defensive end wouldn't divulge any of his statistical goals for this season, but cornerback Captain Munnerlyn let it be known Tuesday what Griffen told him.

"He said his goal is to have 20-some sacks, and I believe he can do it," Munnerlyn said.

The NFL record is 22½ by hall of fame defensive end Michael Strahan of the New York Giants in 2001. The Vikings' mark is 22, set by Jared Allen in 2011.

Griffen became the Vikings' right defensive end in 2014, replacing Allen when he left as a free agent for Chicago. Since then, Griffen has recorded 12 and 10 1/2 sacks the past two seasons.

He made his first Pro Bowl last year, yet when the NFL Network came out earlier this summer with its list of the top 100 players—as voted by players—Griffen was not one of the nine defensive ends on the list.

Three of his teammates made it: running back Adrian Peterson was fifth, safety Harrison Smith 73rd and defensive tackle Linval Joseph 76th. There were nine defensive ends on the list.

"Respect is earned, and at the end of the day, I know what I do for my team," Griffen said. "You know, in the past two seasons, out of all the defensive ends and the outside 'backers, I'm No. 6 overall on sacks. I got 22½ sacks. So, numbers talk, and the only thing that I can do is just keep on doing what I'm doing."

If Griffen wants to make that list next year, there is a surefire way.

"I told him, 'Go get (20 sacks),'" Munnerlyn said. "I'm a firm believer, man, that hard work pays off, and he's been working hard and he's been getting after it, and it will show this year."

Griffen has been a dominant force in practices since the July 29 start of training camp. Among those who believe he could take another step this year is head coach Mike Zimmer.

"He continues to get better," Zimmer said. "He's a great worker. He goes hard every minute. He wants to keep working on his craft. So, yeah, I think he has got a chance."

In April, Griffen, 28, said he wants to be All-Pro for the first time. On Tuesday, he was less specific.

"I have goals, man, but my goal is to dominate the left tackle," Griffen said. "I want to know him better than he knows himself. ... I'm done talking with my mouth; I'm going to just let my actions speak."

The next tackle Griffen runs into will be Bradley Sowell on Thursday night in a preseason game at Seattle.

One goal Griffen is willing to discuss: Playing out his career with the Vikings.

In his seventh year in Minnesota, Griffen signed a five-year, $42.5 million contract in March 2014, despite the fact he had started just one NFL game in four seasons. He remains grateful to the organization.

"I want to be a Viking for life," said Griffen, who lives year-round in Excelsior. "I've been here for seven years, and I want to spend the rest of my career here. It's a blessing. I love the management. I love the owners, I love the coaching staff, and I love everything about Minnesota. ... I just really want to keep playing great football for my team."

If Griffen can get 20 sacks, he would move into rare company. Chris Doleman, a hall of famer, . did it for the Vikings in 1989. So have Reggie White, Lawrence Taylor, Derrick Thomas and J.J. Watt, the only player to do it twice.