The Minnesota Vikings are a week removed from the crushing ending of their 2015 season, but some players, especially defensive end Everson Griffen, were already looking to next season soon after the loss.
As an emerging vocal leader of the defense, Griffen was already stressing that players start thinking about their offseason workout regimen now and make sure that the progress they made as a contender for the division crown is just a stepping stone to their defense of their hard-fought division title.
“It’s all about the guys in the locker room,” Griffen said. “It’s up to us to come back in great shape, come back ready to play football and come back ready to execute your assignments. We have to do all the right things this offseason – stay out of trouble, spend time with your family. But it’s all about us. We’ve got to come back, do our job like we did this year and figure out where we went wrong and improve in those areas.”
In two years in the Mike Zimmer defense, the Vikings have proved that they get what his scheme entails and the results on the field aren’t about individual statistics. It’s about the team concept.
In a game that is often defined by individual statistics, Zimmer has gotten players to buy into the team approach and Griffen is guzzling the Z-brand Kool Aid.
“Our number one thing here is to be passionate about the game,” Griffen said. “Go out there and do your job, finish and leave it out there on the field. That’s what we did this year. We’ve got a bunch of guys on this team that don’t play selfish football, that love this team and play each game for one another. That’s what we did. We wanted it. We played hard and we’ve got to learn from this and not feel this way again. This will be motivation. This makes me want to start working out right away.”
The Vikings were still trying to get over the sting of their come-from-ahead loss to Seattle in the playoffs, but Griffen is convinced that the progress the team has made in the first two seasons is going to continue in 2016.
As he views it, the Vikings have the pieces in place to contend for the Super Bowl next year. It’s just a matter of maintaining their focus and commitment to getting the job done.
They took big strides in that effort in 2015. In 2016, it’s time for those seeds to bear fruit.
“We’re a great team and we have to start realizing we have great individuals on this team – great players that win their individual battles,” Griffen said. “The biggest thing that we have to do is that we’ve got to finish and we’ve got to fight. We’ve got to come back with the same competitiveness and do all the little things that we didn’t do this season to make our team better. We’ve got to use this as motivation. We don’t know what next season holds. The only thing we can do is work to get back to where we want to be.”
- The Vikings denied a request from the Cleveland Browns to hire away running backs coach Kirby Wilson. The Vikings are within their rights under the current framework of assistant coaches, who are currently only allowed to leave if they are offered a head coaching job.
- Leslie Frazier didn’t stay unemployed for long. After being fired along with most of Lovie Smith’s staff in Tampa Bay, where Frazier was the defensive coordinator, he was hired by John Harbaugh to be the new secondary coach for the Ravens.
- Harbaugh has a history of hiring former head coaches to his staff in Baltimore. Frazier is the ninth former head coach Harbaugh has hired. He currently has three former head coaches on his staff –Frazier, Marc Trestman and Marty Mornhinweg.
- Seattle kicker Steven Hauschka posted a photo of his right foot on Instagram late last week showing that he still had bruising on his foot from kicking in the frigid temperatures of the wild card game between the Seahawks and Vikings. The top of Hauschka’s foot was still bruised late in the week, despite only kicking the ball five times – three kickoffs, one field goal and one extra point – during the game.
- Former Vikings defensive end Jared Allen broke a small bone in his foot in Sunday’s win over Seattle. Allen is going to try play through the injury, but it will eventually require surgery. Reports out of Charlotte say his season may be over.