Vikings’ Griffen insists ‘sky is the limit’
By Chris Tomasson St. Paul Pioneer Press MANKATO -- Everson Griffen couldn't make it to the banquet last May when he was named the Vikings' defensive MVP for 2014. But he sent in a video to let those in attendance know he is thinking big. Very bi...
By Chris Tomasson
St. Paul Pioneer Press
MANKATO - Everson Griffen couldn’t make it to the banquet last May when he was named the Vikings’ defensive MVP for 2014. But he sent in a video to let those in attendance know he is thinking big.
“My dream is to be a Pro Bowler and a Hall of Famer,” the defensive end said on the video.
Before talking Hall of Fame, it might be a good idea for Griffen to first make a Pro Bowl. He figures this is the season for that.
Griffen was ninth in the NFL in 2014 with 12 sacks in his fifth year, but first as a starter. Many believe he should have made the Pro Bowl, played just a few miles from his home in the Phoenix area. The game has been moved back to its usual location in Hawaii, but Griffen will take that.
“My goals are high,’’ Griffen said Friday at training camp. “My goals are to be All-Pro, and if you’re All-Pro, you’re Pro Bowl. I like keeping my goals to myself, but my sky is the limit, you know. I’ve been hearing all my life I’ve got the potential, and now it’s time. I had a good season last year, and now it’s time to do it consistently over the next seven years of my career.”
Griffen didn’t want to talk specifically about the Hall of Fame despite having brought that up as a goal three months ago. Then again, he offered a category in which such an honor would seem to fit.
“I want to be the world,” he said. “But it’s up to me to put in the consistency and the hard work, starting right now, to get where I want to go. I want to be great, so Hall of Fame, I’ve got to work. … I want to be great.”
Many teammates say this isn’t just talk. Griffen, the say, has tremendous talent, and last season it finally started to come together for him.
Griffen signed a five-year, $42.5 million contract in March 2014, turning some heads because he had started just one career game at that point. But he made the investment look smart and doesn’t seem to have missed a beat.
“He’s looked great,” said linebacker Chad Greenway. “He’s got a great motor and he’s always out there practicing hard and training hard. He’s a guy that we’re going to look for from a leadership standpoint. … There’s nothing he can’t do on a football field.”
So does that mean Greenway believes Griffen actually could be a Hall of Famer?
“He has the physical ability to do that,” Greenway said. “And obviously a lot of that depends on how long he can play, how healthy he can stay - and he’s a guy who’s proven to be able to stay healthy. … He’s a great player who’s going to help us a lot.”
Griffen still has work to do, including becoming less penalty prone. Out of 59 defensive ends in a 4-3 scheme, Griffen was rated as the eighth best in 2014 by Pro Football Focus, good but not in the top 10 percent.
With a base salary of $6.9 million and cap number of $8.2 million, Griffen is Minnesota’s third-highest paid player behind running back Adrian Peterson and wide receiver Mike Wallace. He insists there’s no burden on him to continue to prove he’s worth the money.
“There’s no pressure, man,” he said. “My biggest thing is if I go out there and do my job and work hard and execute my assignment, I feel like I could do anything I want to.”
Vikings guard Mike Harris doesn’t disagree. When he was a left tackle at UCLA, Harris regularly went against Griffen when he was a right defensive end at rival USC.
Harris has continued to bang with Griffen in Minnesota practices, and the two have developed a close friendship.
“The dude is just an animal,” Harris said. “He knows the game, he knows how to defeat offensive linemen. I know he’s going to have a great year. I feel like he’s gotten smarter and he’s gotten stronger.”
But a Hall of Famer? Doesn’t that seem a big far fetched?
“It’s realistic,” Harris insisted.
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