Everson Griffen (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
Everson Griffen is seeing an expanded role with the Vikings as he tries to prove he’s more mature on and off the field. Plus, tickets still remain for each home game and the Vikings add a linebacker.
The Vikings made an interesting move this week when signing defensive end Stylez G. White, formerly Greg White of the Minnesota Gophers a decade ago.
The signing of White not only brought an experienced presence at the second (or third) level of the depth chart at defensive end, but it might have created a backlog of ends as the Vikings prepare to trim their roster to 53 players on Sept. 3. Brian Robison and Jared Allen are the starters and Everson Griffen and Adrian Awasom were in the lead to be the backups, but the acquisition of White, who averaged a respectable six sacks over four seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will make it interesting to see how many defensive ends the Vikings keep and if one of those three backups will have to be sacrificed for depth at defensive tackle, where Kevin Williams could be facing a suspension.
While Griffen’s two arrests for fleeing police after a traffic stop and public intoxication didn’t fit with the image Vikings coach Leslie Frazier is trying to establish, Frazier now says Griffen is more mature.
“He really is. We talk all the time and it seems like things are heading the right direction,” Frazier said this week. “We just have to continue to put him in a position to see if he can make some plays for us.”
Frazier talked to Griffen after his arrests, but the two of them have kept the content of that conversation private. For Frazier, trust is part of the relationship between players and coaches.
“It’s a big deal, but not only [for] the coaches, [for] your teammates. They want to see that you’re going to be a guy that they can count on, when they get on that field in the huddle as well. That’s a big part of developing a team and a team atmosphere,” Frazier said. “It’s not just about an individual’s talent, but can he play within a team concept? Right now Everson is showing that he can get that done.”
Griffen started in place of Allen in the season opener, as Frazier gave his top players the night off. With a chance to work with the first-team defense, Griffen had two tackles and had two of the Vikings’ three quarterback hurries.
Talent has never been the issue with Griffen. He was considered worthy of a first-round draft pick in 2010 based on talent alone, but teams had questions about his maturity and dedication and a party reputation from his days at USC. By showing signs of improving in those areas, his role could expand.
“He’s showing that he is a reliable guy in a lot of areas. We’re now getting to a point where he’s more trustworthy in some of the things we’re doing. It helps,” Frazier said. “He knows that the coaches have more confidence in him after his rookie season. You’d expect that. That rookie year is always tough for a lot of guys but he has really matured on the football field in a lot of ways. Now he’s still got some areas to grow in, but he’s come a long ways.”
NO SELLOUTS YET
The Vikings are still looking to sell out their first regular-season game, or any regular-season game at this point.
The NFL lockout and delay in free agency put them behind in the selling period, but fan interest started to pick up after the lockout, Vikings vice president of sales and marketing Steve LaCroix said.
“[There’s been a ] steady level of activity. It’s one of those things where it definitely kicked in gear as far as a lot of different opportunities [for marketing]. Once the games are on and the schedule is out, from a ticketing standpoint people embrace that a little bit more.”
The Vikings are packaging home games against the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions, and the Packers game is the closest to selling out, with LaCroix calling it a “limited number” of tickets available for that game, but he didn’t want to get into specific numbers.
Despite the home opener being at little over three weeks away on Sept. 18 against Tampa Bay, LaCroix said he is optimistic that will be sold out.
“I am, but we’re not there yet, but we’re moving in the right direction,” he said.
Teams still have until 72 hours before game time to sell out to avoid a blackout on local television, but they are allowed to give away preseason tickets to help fill the building.
HERRON HELPS DEPLETED LINEBACKERS
Amid a rash of injuries at linebacker, the Vikings waived linebacker Mark Washington, who was dealing with a shoulder stinger, and signed former Vikings linebacker David Herron.
Herron was with the Vikings during the 2007 offseason after signing as an undrafted free agent. He was claimed by the Patriots when the Vikings released him during the final roster cuts after the Vikings signed Patriots tight end Garrett Mills. After the Patriots released Herron following Week 1, he then spent 11 weeks of 2007 on the Vikings practice squad before he was activated to the 53-man roster in December. He played in his first career game against the Washington Redskins on Dec. 23 on Sunday Night Football and had a special-teams tackle in each of his two active games in his rookie season.
In 2008, he played in 14 regular-season games, starting three at middle linebacker for an injured E.J. Henderson. He was a regular on special teams and finished the season with seven special-teams tackles.
Since leaving the Vikings after the 2008 season, he spent 10 games with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2009 and two with the San Diego Chargers last year before a brief stint with the New York Jets during this year’s training camp.
In addition to Washington, several other Vikings linebackers have missed time this week with injuries. Jasper Brinkley (hip), Ross Homan (concussion) and Heath Farwell (hamstring) are all expected to miss Saturday’s game against Dallas, creating an immediate need for depth at the position.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.