Notebook: Cedric Griffin benched, hints at asking Vikings to cut him
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DETROIT -- Cedric Griffin addressed his benching in Sunday's loss at Detroit as if his time with the Minnesota Vikings is about to end.
"You've got to ask Coach (Leslie) Frazier," said Griffin, who never returned to the field after Titus Young ran past him for a 57-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
"I'm going to do the best that I can do and do what I do. But that's on the team decision. So, I'm going to make my decision, what I've got to do after the season and they're going to make their decision."
Griffin, 29, has three years and $14.55 million remaining on the five-year contract extension he signed in March 2009. But he has struggled mightily since undergoing reconstructive surgeries on both knees last year and drawn the ire of coach Leslie Frazier for making fundamental errors.
"We made that switch to try to get someone in there that would slow the Titus Youngs of the world down," Frazier said. "It's hard to play the kind of defense we want to play if you don't execute that part of the defense."
Sunday's benching came one week after coaches took Griffin out of the base defense late in a loss to Denver. Frazier said the next day Griffin only was continuing to play because injuries and other issues have decimated the secondary -- but that wasn't enough to keep him on the field against the Lions.
"Even though we may not have our full complement, there are certain things that we have to be able to do to be able to function," Frazier said. "Being fundamentally sound, technique sound -- that doesn't take a lot of talent. You've just got to be able to execute some of those basic fundamentals that we ask. Made a change and the guys that got in there, they battled and they fought and they held their own pretty good."
Asher Allen, who was supposed to play only in nickel as he came off a shoulder injury, took over at left cornerback and Benny Sapp moved to Griffin's spot on the right side. Marcus Sherels replaced Sapp covering the slot in nickel.
Griffin wasn't solely at fault on the touchdown, which came against the same Cover-2 defense the Broncos ripped apart a week earlier. Safety Jamarca Sanford got off his landmark and couldn't recover because Griffin didn't slow Young with a jam at the line.
"I should have got over the top and made the play, but the corner didn't get a good reroute," Sanford said. "I've still got to get over the top and make that play. But just didn't execute."
Stafford threw another touchdown later in the first quarter to tight end Brandon Pettigrew in front of Sanford, who was expecting Allen to sink underneath the route.
"You've got to give Stafford credit," Sanford said. "He did a good job. He pumped to the flat, made Double-A break up, so it put stress on me to get back over."
The Lions sealed the victory with help from what could have been their 11th penalty.
The play was designed as a fade or stop-fade to tight end Kyle Rudolph, who had a one-on-one mismatch against Detroit cornerback Eric Wright. But the Lions rushed six and defensive tackle Sammie Hill got through, throwing off the play's timing and flushing Joe Webb out of the pocket.
Linebacker DeAndre Levy came off the edge and knocked the ball loose -- then followed through and hit Webb in the face. Replays appeared to show Webb's helmet turning briefly as Levy grabbed the facemask before gathering himself to run after the fumble.
"I didn't see a replay, but people have told me that they grabbed Joe's facemask and that was one of the reasons he wasn't able to get his head up to make the throw," Frazier said. "Boy, I wish they'd (called a penalty). I wish that that had happened. It might have been a different outcome."
Levy told reporters it was a glancing blow and he never grabbed Webb's facemask. Asked how much it affected the play, Webb said, "I can't remember really. So many things that went through my head -- I was just trying to make a play.
"But you could look at it in different types of ways. I could have threw it up and he caught it for a touchdown. Could have ditched it away, go to the next play. Broke that tackle, ran it in for a touchdown. I can't take that play back. All I can do is learn from it."
Receiver Percy Harvin said players thought the penalty should have been called but downplayed the call, pointing out the Vikings committed six turnovers.
"For me to come in and blame it on a facemask -- we had way, way, way worse things go wrong in that game," Harvin said. "You would like to see it called. The refs didn't see it. They don't see everything. It's something they missed, so we had to move on."
The only player with a chance for slowing Hill was Johnson, who also had Levy rushing him from the outside and ended up stopping neither.
"They dialed something up and they brought an extra person," Johnson said. "It just sucks."
Webb took over at quarterback with 8 minutes, 2 seconds remaining in the third quarter -- replacing rookie Christian Ponder, who had just committed his fourth turnover.
The Vikings rallied from a 31-14 deficit and were at the Detroit 1-yard line with 9 seconds to go when Levy stripped Webb to seal the decision. But Frazier shot down the suggestion he might think about starting Webb next week against New Orleans.
"If Christian is healthy, he's our number one quarterback," Frazier said.
Ponder missed two full days of practice last week because of a hip pointer and didn't get the green light to start until he completed a workout on Sunday morning.
Frazier decided to pull him in part because Ponder's third interception -- an ugly throw across his body for Percy Harvin that Eric Wright intercepted -- was out of character for an athletic quarterback who usually would have scrambled in such a situation.
"In the past, he would have thrown it away or tried to get some yards with his legs," Frazier said. "When he didn't, that's not -- he's either stiffening up or it's not the Christian that we're accustomed to seeing. So, I had to sit him down and talk with him and make a change."
Ponder said the hip remained a little tight but he wasn't experiencing pain. He expects to make a full recovery and start next week.
"Coach Frazier came up and told me about the change," Ponder said, "and just felt that it didn't look like I was moving around that wel and I wasn't doing the things to be able to get out of the way and break contain.
"I think that's what (why he) forced that last throw and Joe obviously was healthy and prepared all week and did a great job. But I've got to keep learning from those mistakes and can't force things that aren't there."
Allen hits milestone
Jared Allen's chase for the single-season sack record has new life.
The Vikings' star end had three sacks in the first half, giving him 17½ for the season and 100½ for his career. That puts him in striking distance of Michael Strahan's record of 22½ sacks, set in 2001.
"Jared's a great competitor," Frazier said. "His attitude this entire season has been terrific, from day one."
Only 26 other players have reached 100 sacks since they became an official statistic in 1982. Indianapolis end Dwight Freeney also surpassed 100 sacks on Sunday.
None of Allen's sacks on Sunday will end up on his highlight reel. He surpassed the 100-mark on a coverage sack when Matthew Stafford held the ball all day.
But that didn't stop him from doing his usual post-sack celebration and getting booed more vociferously than usual by an announced crowd of 63,988 upset by comments he made about Detroit earlier in the week on his radio show.
"Nothing against the people of Detroit -- I just would not want to live here," said Allen, who insisted his original comments were made in jest. "Take it as you will, I am not trying to break straws, but dudes were yelling in the crowd. I think one guy said, 'Go drown yourself in the river please,' and that was kind of funny. Obviously, I would never kill myself.
"We are rivals. I am not supposed to like Detroit. That is the way rival games are supposed to be."
Rookie receiver Stephen Burton left the game with a knee injury in the first quarter and will miss "an extended period of time," Frazier said.
Burton was scheduled to have an MRI on Monday.