Notebook: Viking still have 'high expectations' for Everson Griffen
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INDIANAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings aren't giving up on Everson Griffen.
Vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman said the Vikings still have "a lot of high expectations" for Griffen, who was arrested twice in a three-day span this month and then planned a Super Bowl party in Las Vegas before coach Leslie Frazier talked him out of it.
"You always look at that, but I know Leslie and Everson had a pretty good conversation," Spielman said on Thursday at the NFL scouting combine.
"I'll keep internally what's been discussed, but we feel very confident in Everson. What he did -- I'll leave that for Leslie to discuss. He is a very talented football player and felt very fortunate we were able to get him in the draft last year and showed signs of that as a rookie."
Griffen, 23, was a projected first-round pick who fell to the fourth (100th overall) in large part because of character concerns. The Vikings gave him a $540,000 signing bonus and he appeared in 11 games as a rookie, registering seven tackles (five solo) and four quarterback pressures in 64 snaps on defense, plus eight more tackles (six solo) on coverage units.
Depending on the rules in the next collective-bargaining agreement, starting left end Ray Edwards and top backup Brian Robison could become unrestricted free agents, leaving Griffen in position to compete for extended time.
The Vikings this week are beginning the process of vetting another class of incoming rookies, starting with their allotment of 60 interviews at the combine. Last year, at least one NFL team took Griffen off its draft board altogether, and the Vikings took him only after sending three scouts on campus visits and setting up one-on-one interviews with Spielman and defensive line coach Karl Dunbar.
"That's part of the effort by everyone in the organization, by spending time with these kids and finding out what your tolerance level is," Spielman said, speaking generally. "'OK, this is what we know, the problems he's going to bring in' -- and that's my job, to make sure that we identify all those issues and the potential problems down the road, and then if he does do this, are we able to handle that as an organization?"
Griffen's first court date for his Jan. 31 arrest was scheduled for Friday. As of Feb. 10, the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office -- which received the case when the district attorney decided not to pursue felony battery charges -- had not decided whether to file misdemeanor charges.
The Vikings plan to use their full allotment of 60 interviews at the combine, beginning on Friday and ending late Monday night. The interviews last only 15 minutes each, so the Vikings try to individualize each session based on holes or questions in their existing scouting reports.
According to Spielman, a primary focus this year will be on junior quarterbacks -- presumably including Missouri's Blaine Gabbert, Auburn's Cam Newton and Arkansas' Ryan Mallett -- since the team hasn't previously had time with them.
"The toughest judgment is when you go and you meet with theses kids, and they sit there and draw it up on the board and, 'Wow, this guy is brilliant. He could be an offensive coordinator in this league,'" Spielman said. "Can he do the same thing he just did in the 2-minute period in the 3-second period when he's got to take a snap and drop back and the pressure's in his face? That's the unknown part."
The process will continue through campus and individual workouts into April, and the Vikings' need at the most important position -- the only quarterbacks signed for 2011 are Joe Webb and Rhett Bomar -- means it will receive extra attention.
In addition to scouts' usual involvement, Spielman, coach Leslie Frazier, new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and new quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson will be "heavily involved" in the workout process, Spielman said.
"I feel pretty strong about this class, about the depth of this class, not only through the first rounds, but I think through the second, third round too," Spielman said. "We will try to get as many of those guys as we hone in on those guys and specific guys that we target."
So long, Madieu?
Asked about the state of the secondary, Spielman mentioned the names of safeties Husain Abdullah, Tyrell Johnson and Jamarca Sanford -- but not veteran Madieu Williams, whose $5.4 million base salary next season makes him a logical candidate to be released.
"Abdullah played very well for us at the safety position," Spielman said. "We have to get Tyrell going. Coaches are excited about what he can bring, and Jamarca. Plus what we're going to add to our roster."
The Vikings also have significant questions at cornerback, where Antoine Winfield is 33 years old and Cedric Griffin and Chris Cook both will be coming back from season-ending knee injuries that forced Asher Allen into an expanded role last season.
"We have to see where Cedric's coming back from his surgery," Spielman said of Griffin, who tore an anterior cruciate ligament on Oct. 11 for the second time in less than nine months.
"Asher, I know will improve. He's done a lot of good things on tape, (but) he has to improve in some areas. Very excited about Chris Cook, going through a healthy year and what he showed in the preseason."
• John Sullivan's second season as the Vikings' center was largely a disappointment. But Spielman strongly indicated the team plans to give the former sixth-round draft pick another chance in 2011. "Excited about Sullivan," Spielman said when asked generally about the offensive line. "Had to go through a lot of durability issues with both calves and the appendectomy before training camp, the death of his father -- he had a really, really rough year last year. We were very excited about what we saw in '09, so we're expecting John to come back and be, because he is a young player."
• The Vikings have removed "a few" players from their draft board already, Spielman said. "We'll nail that down more when we get to April," Spielman said. "Plus, we haven't gotten any of the medical stuff, too. Guys are flying right off for medical purposes as well."