Vikings’ Griffen starting to justify huge contract
By Chris Tomasson St. Paul Pioneer Press MINNEAPOLIS -- Everson Griffen heard the talk about how the Vikings supposedly were throwing money away on him.
By Chris Tomasson St. Paul Pioneer Press MINNEAPOLIS - Everson Griffen heard the talk about how the Vikings supposedly were throwing money away on him.
Even Forbes jumped into the act during the preseason when the magazine named the defensive end the most overpaid player in the NFL.
Playing behind Jared Allen for four years, Griffen had started one pro game. Nevertheless, the Vikings signed him to a five-year, $42.5 million deal in March.
“I’m all about proving people wrong,” Griffen said. “No matter what, you’re always going to have haters. ... What you want to do is prove them wrong and show them you can be the guy that they gave a huge contract to and you can live up to everything.”
Griffen, 26, is doing a pretty good job of that so far. After getting three sacks in Sunday’s 17-16 loss at Buffalo, he is second in the NFL with seven.
It hasn’t been an easy road. After being taken in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, Griffen had to wait his turn.
One of Minnesota’s ends was Allen, a five-time Pro Bowl player. The Vikings also had Brian Robison, a defensive end who would move into a starting role and is now in his eighth season in Minnesota.
A spot finally opened for Griffen when Allen left in March as a free agent. Griffen relished the chance to step in when the Vikings, fearful of also losing him in free agency, backed up a Brink’s truck.
“It was difficult,” Griffen said of the long wait before becoming a starter.
“You’re not a football player if you don’t get angry that you’re not in there and you’re not upset and you’re not trying to show the coaches, show the team, that you can be that guy. It gets very frustrating, but you also have to be patient, and you have to be humble to get where you want to go.”
Griffen is getting there. He still could use some work on his technique, and he can be penalty prone, with seven this season. But he has fit well into the aggressive style sought by first-year coach Mike Zimmer, a longtime NFL defensive coordinator.
Zimmer stresses it’s not all about individual sack numbers, and getting to the quarterback is a team effort. Still, he likes what he sees out of Griffen.
“Everson is a high, high energy guy that wants to be very, very good,” Zimmer said. “I believe he’s bought into everything that (defensive line coach Andre) Patterson and (assistant line coach Robb) Akey are trying to teach as far as not only the pass rush things, but buying into playing the run, too.”
Of course, sacks get the attention of fans. Although Griffen said wins are ultimately the most important stat, he doesn’t deny his “hope” is to lead the NFL in sacks, and he keeps a running tally in his head, knowing he has 24.5 for his career.
Griffen’s three sacks against the Bills provided him the chance to show off the “Sack Daddy,” the sack dance he concocted in his second season of 2011,
“I came up with it one day joking around,” Griffen said. “I slide to the left, I slide to the right and I do a couple of swirls of my arms and I flex. I was just joking around, and it stuck. This game is entertainment. We’re here to entertain the fans.”
And evidently teammates, too. Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson said he is a big fan of the “Sack Daddy.”
“I love the dance he does, and every time he does it when he gets a sack, I try to copy it (on the sideline),” Patterson said. “But I don’t do it as good.”
Among pass rushers in the NFL, only Denver linebacker Von Miller, who leads the league with nine sacks, has danced more this season than Griffen.
But it’s been a process for Griffen to get to this point. He didn’t have a single sack as a rookie while playing in 11 games. After that season, his NFL career was jeopardized when the former USC star was arrested in January 2011 for public intoxication.
Three days later, Griffen was arrested again after being found driving with an invalid license. He tried to flee on foot and was tasered after allegedly grabbing an officer in the crotch area.
“That’s in the past, but all the stuff I’ve done, I wouldn’t change that for the world,” Griffen said. “It built me into the man I am today. It taught me lessons I would teach my son in the future and it just taught me how to handle adversity. ... Everybody makes mistakes. I was young and I was dumb, but I thought about what I was doing and I learned (from it).
“You know, you only get so many strikes (in the NFL) and then if you get too many strikes, no team is going to want you. ... It really opened my eyes.”
Griffen said his mother, Sabrina Scott, dying in 2012 also made him realize “life is short.” He said getting married in July to Tiffany Griffen and the two having a son have helped him mature. Greyson Scott Griffen is now 20 months old.
“I’ve got a big heart,” Griffen said. ‘I’m a loving guy. I’ve got my son at home, which keeps me going and keeps me moving, and my beautiful wife Tiffany, she’s just an awesome woman. I’m just a lovable guy. I’m a family man, and that’s what I stick to.”
Teammates say Griffen is the joking sort in the locker room. Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd said he’s often singing and dancing, although his voice is “kind of a screech.”
On the field, though, Griffen is a different guy. At 6 feet 3, 273 pounds, he can be a terror.
“He’s pretty rocked up and strong, and he can run like a safety,” Vikings defensive end Corey Wootton said. “He’s got a rare combination of both speed and power.”
That was on display in 2012, when Griffen had eight sacks coming off the bench. His sack total dropped to 5.5 last year, but the Vikings had seen enough to offer him a lucrative deal that has a salary-cap number this season of $8.2 million.
“When they locked me up, I was very excited,” Griffen said. “I got a lot of money, and the only thing I can do is go out there and just keep playing, going out and making the plays that I’m supposed to make ... I want to be a Minnesota Viking for life.”
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