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Updated: July 9th, 2012 1:07pm
Notebook: Slimmer Everson Griffen 'ready to go' as Vikings linebacker

Notebook: Slimmer Everson Griffen 'ready to go' as Vikings linebacker

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Linebacker might be more than an experiment for Everson Griffen.

If all goes well in training camp, it could be his new primary position.

Griffen said on Monday that Minnesota Vikings coaches have told him he'll be a linebacker when camp opens on July 27, and the multitalented end already has shed weight to around 263 pounds to get ready.

"I'm still dropping pounds," said Griffen, who has been participating in Arizona Cardinals star Larry Fitzgerald's annual workouts on the "U" campus since minicamp ended last month.

"Just trying to come back in the best shape possible -- fast, quick, the whole nine."

Griffen, 24, has played only 332 snaps (16.1%) on defense over two NFL seasons. But he recorded four sacks last season while splitting time as a backup end, a roving "Joker" linebacker in the 3-3 nickel defense and a core special teamer who made 18 tackles on coverage units.

He spent most of this offseason on the line, playing base end and nickel defensive tackle, before coaches stuck him at weakside linebacker for the final practice of minicamp. That apparently well enough Griffen will get a longer look there -- which only makes sense as coaches try to figure out how to get one of their most unique athletes on the field.

Starting ends Jared Allen and Brian Robison combined to play 1,895 snaps last season (89.6%), leaving little work for their backups.

"That's what I'm looking at," Griffen said. "I'm looking (to) get on the field and show them what I can do and show them I can be an impact right away at linebacker."

A borderline first-round talent when he came out of Southern California in 2010, Griffen fell to the Vikings in the fourth round (100th overall) in large part because of concerns about his motor, motivation and maturity.

He did nothing to dispel that perception by getting arrested twice in a three-day span a month after his rookie season ended, then trying to organize a trip to Las Vegas on his public Facebook page the following weekend. He remains moody and prone to mental lapses, but there's no disputing his ability or production in limited action.

Switching positions could make Griffen a backup option in a thin linebacker group, since Erin Henderson figures to remain the starting will. More likely, it'll give Griffen a better overall sense of the position if new defensive coordinator Alan Williams decides to put him on the field for his rush ability on passing downs.

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 273 pounds in the past, Griffen has been told to report around 265, which is still quite heavy for a 4-3 outside linebacker. He doesn't expect his time on the line or as a Joker are over either.

"I expect to be doing that, too," Griffen said. "When camp starts, whatever they've got for me, I'm just going to execute. I'm just going to go out there and -- no buts this time, this and this. Execute my assignment and make plays and show them that I'm ready to play, that I'm mature enough, that I'm ready and I'm trying to take it to that next step.

"I want to be one of them guys that's going to be a big impact on us winning games and going to the playoffs and even try to win a Super Bowl. It's early right now, but I'm just ready to go, man. Ready to just get out there and show Minnesota what I can do. Show the owners, show just everybody how I can contribute to the team."

Shuler 'just looking forward to playing'

The only other Vikings player participating in Monday's workout was tight end Mickey Shuler, a seventh-round pick out of Penn State in 2010 who has battled injuries during stints with three teams over two seasons.

"I'm just looking forward to playing," Shuler said. "My rookie year, I got to play in a few games in Miami, and then last year, I was hurt with my Achilles and out most of the season. This year, I'm just looking forward to having a healthy year and getting out on the field and playing and help the Vikings win."

Monday marked Shuler's first workout in a couple of weeks since tweaking his back. But he held his own in a series of sprints with a group that included mostly receivers -- part of the balanced skillset that makes him intriguing at 6-foot-4 and 251 pounds.

The Vikings' tight end group will look far different in 2012, with Kyle Rudolph assuming a starting job and John Carlson and rookie fourth-round pick Rhett Ellison replacing free agent Visanthe Shiancoe and the retired Jimmy Kleinsasser.

If the Vikings keep four, the last spot will go to second-year pro Allen Reisner or Shuler, who prides himself on being versatile but knows his blocking must carry him here.

"They need someone that can stay in there and block and coming in and out of the backfield," Shuler said. "I think I can split out if they need me to. I think I can line up in the backfield and line up in the wing position or put your hand in the dirt and line up in a three-point stance. I think I can do all those things, and that helps. The more you can do, the more you can get on the field."

Weber working

Denver Broncos quarterback Adam Weber, the all-time leading passer in "U" history, also has been participating in the Fitzgerald workouts, which as always are being run four days a week by Bill Welle and his assistants from WelleFast Elite Sports Training.

Weber has been living at home for about two weeks since finishing up organized team activity practices in Denver. He reports to Broncos training camp on July 25.

"With OTAs, I got some good reps and learned a lot," Weber said. "I feel like I'm light years ahead of where I was last year, but I still have a long ways to go and I'm looking forward to this next fall amp and kind of see where I've improved and where I stand."

Last year, Weber signed with Denver as an undrafted free agent and impressed the coaching staff enough to be signed to the practice squad.

All three of the players ahead of him on the depth chart -- Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn and Tim Tebow -- are gone, leaving Weber in a battle with ex-Bear Caleb Hanie and second-round draft pick Brock Osweiler for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart behind future Pro Football Hall of Famer Peyton Manning.

"All three of us will get an equal chance to fight for it. That's all you can ask for," Weber said. "I know those other two guys are working their butts off. Push Peyton, try to be better football players. Anytime you get an opportunity to get a rep, you've got to make the most of it."

Weber has a bit more confidence this time, now that he's had a chance to have OTAs with his Broncos teammates. Last year, the NFL lockout left workouts like Monday's as the only football work Weber got in the offseason.

"Last year, we just jumped right into it," Weber said. "When we were doing this stuff, I was doing interviews for other jobs because I had no idea what I was going to do. And now signing a contract and knowing that I'll be going back to Denver and 'this is when to report and this is what to expect' -- you just feel a little bit more confident with what to work on and what they're looking for."

Quick hit

• Former Vikings RB Albert Young is retiring to become an assistant football coach at the University of Colorado, TheSidelineView.com reported. Eric Bieniemy, who coached Young with the Vikings, is Colorado's offensive coordinator/running backs coach.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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