Griffen looking for best in contract year

Everson Griffen made a big impact last year despite not being a regular starter. Now he's in the final year of his contract and looking to prove he deserves a starting role.

Everson Griffen is aware of the situation. He still isn't a starter after three years in the NFL and his contract expires after the 2013 season.

Fortunately for Griffen, his contract expiration date is the same for the contracts of players ahead of him at defensive end. Both Jared Allen and Brian Robison also have contracts set to expire after the 2013 season. That could serve at motivation for Griffen to continue his ascent as a reliable defender.

"I'll always be motivated. I'm in the NFL – it's always a motivation. It's always a motivation. Going into my contract year, I try to step it up that much more and be that guy they know I can be," Griffen said.

"I focus on myself. I'm a team guy, but when it comes to contracts and all that, I've just got worry about getting the job done. If we win the game, that's fine with me. I just want to go out there and perform for my team the best I can and win games in the 2013 season."

Griffen has turned his career from one on thin ice early because of bad decisions and offseason arrests to working for his next NFL contract.

Last year, Griffen had a career-high eight sacks, doubling his previous best from 2011. He added 36 tackles, including 10 for a loss, and 27 quarterback hurries.

His eight sacks were third on the team – behind Allen (12) and Robison (8.5), who were both dealing with injuries – and his 10 tackles for losses were tied for third on the team behind Allen (17) and Antoine Winfield (11). His quarterback hurries were second only to Allen's 40 (Robison was third with 21).

Griffen did all that while playing in only 54 percent of the defensive snaps last year.

This year, like any athlete, Griffen is hoping for more – more opportunity and more stats-building when afforded the opportunity.

"I have a goal, but I like keeping them to myself. I just want to be one of the top guys. That's what I'm working for," Griffen said. "I've been working my heart out. I've been doing everything possible to get me to that next step. The only thing I can do is put it out there on the field, when we lift for the team, when we do OTAs, minicamps, training camp, preseason. I've just got to do it from the very beginning. You've got to start from the basics to get to the top."

Griffen said he doesn't know how he will be used on the defensive line. He has the ability to move to several different positions along the line and be a threat. His versatility and ability to keep offenses guessing is a valued commodity.

"I'm a defensive lineman, but I'm still going to be moving around like I've been doing. They're never going to get rid of that," he said. "I'm still going to be moving around, going inside, playing outside, playing end and doing everything. Whatever I can do to help this team win."

What the coaching staff apparently figured out last year is that he isn't a linebacker. Still, on occasion he moved back a level on the defense, although he will often still rush the quarterback on the occasions he is used as a "joker." The advantage is that it gives the offense a new look and the possibility of Griffen dropping back into coverage, like he did for his 29-yard interception return for a touchdown last year.

Mostly, though, Griffen is a defensive lineman and one that is looking to become a full-time starter. He has the burst to make that happen. Consistency could be the key. But whatever it takes, becoming a starter is his ultimate short-term individual goal.

"That's what everybody wants. I've been working hard all offseason on what I need to improve on – my focus, my techniques and just doing what I have to do to take it to that next level. I just want to be a big contributor to the 2013 season of the Minnesota Vikings. I've just got to keep on working, stay focused and keep God first," he said.

"… I want to start in the NFL in my fourth year, so I'm just going to keep on doing what I'm doing and let the puzzle pieces fall where they fall. The only thing I can do is control what I do and what I do in OTAs (organized team activities), what I do in minicamp, what I do at camp. I'm not in control of what they want to do; I'm in control of myself. The only thing I can do is control what I can do and just work hard."

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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