It takes a unique player to have the versatility to be a jack of all trades. It's not for everyone. Some players like to get placed at one position and stay there – learning all the nuances of that position. Others are more flexible and, when it comes to their desire to get on the field, they're willing to accept whatever challenge is placed in front of them.
Some players have made a career out of being athletic enough to play multiple positions and get thrown into action at a moment's notice. Offensive lineman Artis Hicks was such a player, enjoying a long NFL career because of his ability to play both guard and tackle positions.
Vikings third-year defensive lineman Everson Griffen has found himself in a similar position. When he arrived with the Vikings, he came as a defensive end. But the Vikings were deep at the position with Jared Allen, Ray Edwards and Brian Robison in front of him. As a result, Griffen was willing to do whatever it required to get on the field – playing special teams, playing defensive tackle, even playing some outside linebacker while still being viewed primarily as a defensive end.
With the attrition of players along the defensive line and the linebacker corps over the last two years, Griffen is could see markedly more playing time this year. Where that playing time will come remains an unanswered question, but Griffin is ready to go wherever he's asked to play and is learning multiple positions.
"I've always thought that one of my strengths is my ability to adapt to a situation," Griffen said. "When I came here, I was a fourth-round pick. You never have any guarantees when you come into a team. I came in willing to adapt to whatever was asked of me."
His adaptation skills are obvious, but there aren't many players with the athleticism to be an outside rusher, the power to handle duties inside and the speed to take backs and tight ends in coverage as a hybrid linebacker. Griffen has found himself in all of those positions. Instead of being upset about not having a fixed identity in the lineup, Griffen is embracing the opportunity to expand his knowledge base and gain experience wherever the opportunity presents itself.
"I just try to use my athletic ability," Griffen said. "I've been working the most on using my hands. That's the biggest thing at this level is being able to use your hands well. I've been working on my hand placement and keeping my feet back. I'm used to playing different positions, so, at this point, it's about working on the little things you need to get better."
When it comes to losing time perfecting one position for the overall benefit of team depth on the defense, Griffen said his biggest learning curve isn't from switching from end to tackle on a moment's notice, it's moving from one side of the defensive line to the other.
"There are differences," Griffen said of his positional multitasking. "The bigger difference is switching sides because things are pretty much opposite if you're playing on the right side than if you're on the left side. When you play inside, you have to be a little quicker in what you do. It's all about the progressions. You've just got to work on your technique and be prepared to play different positions. There are a lot of little differences, but the more you play them, the easier it gets."
Eventually, the Vikings are going to find a spot for Griffen and leave him there … maybe. When that day is coming isn't known yet, but, if things continue on the same path and Griffen continues to get bounced around as a floater between multiple positions, he's cool with that. As long as he's on the field and contributing, that is what is important to him.
"It doesn't matter to me," Griffen said. "I just want to be on the field – I don't care where. My goal is to do whatever I can to help the team win and if that means playing wherever I'm needed, that's fine with me."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Griffen willing to adapt as needed
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