Everson Griffen has 42.5 million reasons to be giddy over the opportunity in front of him, but he isn't taking time off just yet to enjoy his newfound riches.
The defensive lineman who has started only one game in his NFL career to this point is expected to take over for Jared Allen at right end, although he said he might still be moved inside to defensive tackle on occasion. For now, he's simply ecstatic to be one of the guys the Vikings and new head coach Mike Zimmer will count on heavily.
Throughout a 10-minute call with reporters, Griffen was euphoric about his opportunity, and the energy he usually displays on the field was coming through loud and clear over the phone. All the way to the end of the call, when invited media to his workout Wednesday morning and referenced the exact start time of the Vikings' offseason conditioning program.
"It starts April 7 at 7:15 a.m. in the morning and let's get back to work. Minnesota Vikings – stand up!" Griffen said in a voice and cadence fit for pro wrestling.
Stuck behind Brian Robison and Jared Allen at defensive end, Griffen played in only 60 percent of the defensive snaps last year, and many of those came at defensive tackle when the Vikings were in an obvious pass-rushing situation. But throughout his first four years, he has flashed his potential and even admitted he had "freakish athletic ability" on Tuesday.
"People always use the word potential with me. People are always like, ‘Oh, you have so much potential. You've got all the talent,'" he said. "Now it's time to turn that potential and talent into being a professional day in and day out, to put it on the field every single day – put it on the field every single day and build my craft. Become a master at my craft every single day.
"I haven't even touched the surface on what I can do. I'm ready to work. I'm ready to listen. I'm going to absorb all this knowledge that Coach Zimmer is going to give me. … I'm just going to absorb all that knowledge and I'm going to apply it to the football field. I'm going to apply it to my freakish athletic ability and I'm just going to use it day in and day out."
The Vikings signed Griffen to a five-year, $42.5 million deal that includes $20 million in guaranteed money. That's a lot of money banking that his "potential" will turn into sustainable production.
Griffen played in all 16 games last year but didn't start any. He finished third on the team in sacks with 5.5, behind Allen's 11.5 and Robison's nine. Griffen was also fifth on the team with nine tackles for loss and third with 27 quarterback hurries, 30 tackles and four passes defensed, according to coaches' film review.
Griffen praised Allen for teaching him a lot about playing defensive end and rushing the passer.
"In my era of playing defensive end, he's the best player I've seen play that position, at defensive end. He was smart, he had wisdom, he listened and he worked," Griffen said of Allen. "This type of stuff just doesn't happen by you being a guy. You've got to work at it and that's what Jared did. Jared taught me everything I know about football today. He taught me little techniques on how to use your hands and do that and he became a master of his craft by playing one position. When I get the opportunity to become a master of my craft at one position, is there a ceiling in here? I'm just going to keep on looking, but I want to reach that ceiling that I can go to whatever limits because I'm going to push myself to the max."
Griffen repeatedly praised Zimmer and his philosophy, saying that his coaching style of holding players accountable is welcome.
"Me and Zimmer, we had a conversation and the way he talked about me – not just about me, about the team and the coaching staff we brought in – about how they're going to teach us technique, how they're going to teach us how to be a smarter football players, how to be a more disciplined player," Griffen said. "The reason I know that is because he's a disciplined type of guy. He wants the most out of me. He's going to pull the most out of me or he's going to find what you're made of. He's going to make sure that he gets the best out of this team. He's going to be disciplined and he's going to be ready to coach."
As for Griffen, he was simply excitable after signing his contract.
"The players that become great, John Randle, it's unbelievable how much competitive nature you have to become on that type of pedestal," Griffen said. "… Feed me. I'm hungry right now."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Griffen giddy over his, Vikings' opportunity
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