Everson Griffen has come 'a long way,' taking football seriously now
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MANKATO, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier smiled and shook his head, seemingly bursting at the seams to give an answer that is three years in the making.
What's the biggest difference you've seen in Everson Griffen from his rookie season?
"He's come a long way, a long way," Frazier said. "He's really grown up. As you can recall, there were some moments there that were a little tenuous. I wondered then, in 2013, would we talk about Everson being a part of our team."
Those tenuous moments in January 2011, when Griffen was arrested twice in the span of three days for public intoxication and felony battery of a police officer, were tipping points for not only Frazier, but also for the player who couldn't seem to get out of his own way.
"There comes a point in your life that you have to take your job seriously and take care of [your family]," Griffen said. "And that's what I'm trying to do."
After attempting to flee from a traffic stop on January 31, 2011, Griffen was Tasered by a Los Angeles police officer and was found to have been driving with an invalid license. Around the same time, players from his alma mater, the University of Southern California, were banned from attending Griffen's Super Bowl party in Las Vegas because of the risk of being in the news for the wrong reasons.
"But a credit to him, and his maturation, to move away from some of those things that really would inhibit his growth as a player and as a person," Frazier said. "We did some things to help him and encourage him, but we tried that with a lot of players and at times they want to do their own thing. In Everson's case, he wanted to listen, he wanted to make some changes and it's an ongoing process."
Frazier beamed at the podium when talking about Griffen's off-the-field transformation, but it's his continuous improvement on the field that widens Frazier's smile just a little bit more.
Griffen, primarily an inside pass rusher, stepped in at defensive end for injured Brian Robison against St. Louis and recorded his first interception and first touchdown off a zone drop. Robinson returned, pushing Griffen into the backup role once again, but he still managed to record four sacks in the final two games, finishing second on the team with nine sacks overall.
So far in training camp, Griffen has lined up as the one-technique in the Vikings' often used nickel formation and is the rotational defensive end when Jared Allen or Robison need rest.
"When a guy is performing at the level Everson is performing, you have to find ways to get him on the field," Frazier said. "He's shown he's deserving of that. We'll see if he can remain consistent, right now he's off to a great start."