It would appear the Everson Griffen
linebacker experiment is over.
After Monday's practice, head coach Leslie Frazier announced that Griffen – who practiced sparingly after twisting a knee (an injury not believed to be serious) – will be moved back to defensive end.
Frazier said the move wasn't so much because Griffen wasn't able to handle the new position, but more that Erin Henderson
and Marvin Mitchell
have shown enough that Griffen is more valued on the defensive line.
"We saw enough of him at linebacker," Frazier said. "We feel like (moving him back to defensive end) will be better for him. We talked to him Sunday night when we got back and he agrees it would better for him to focus on that position. Erin and Marvin Mitchell are really battling for that (outside linebacker) spot. They're doing a good job of competing. We feel like we're going to be OK as they continue to develop and he gives us some things on the defensive line that we knew we had from his past, so we're going to keep him at that position."
Frazier doesn't discount playing Griffen at linebacker, but said that experience he has gained while working out at the weakside (Will) linebacker position will help improve his overall game and make him a more complete player who can be used on a situational basis at LB when needed.
"We're still going to do some linebacker type stuff (with him) on third-down situations," Frazier said. "One of the things he had a chance to do was work more off the ball. Before, he was always practicing with his hand on the ground, so he sporadically ended up in situations where he was off the ball, but that was just because of the call. Now he has a better feel, so he should be more improved when we get into live situations."
The decision wasn't an indictment of Griffen's ability at linebacker, but more of a determination that his value to the team is likely to be greater as a part-time defensive lineman who can make plays rather than a player trying to learn a new position while still being used on the line in the new-look Vikings defense.
"Sometimes, with so many things coming at you when you're off the ball, it can be a tough deal and takes a little bit of adjustment," Frazier said. "Where we are depth-wise and the improvement we're seeing at the Will linebacker position, it just felt like this will be better for us long-term. He did some quality things, but the things he picked up at the linebacker should help him better in third-down situations."
MONDAY PRACTICE NOTES
Matt Kalil left practice briefly in the afternoon after hitting his thumb on a helmet. He was taken for an MRI that showed no damage and returned to practice within a half hour.
After practice, Frazier announced that safety Harrison Smith will start Friday against Buffalo, replacing Jamarca Sanford. While Frazier wouldn't commit to the move being permanent, he said he has liked what he has seen in the rookie safety and is looking forward to seeing what he does in the starting lineup against a Buffalo offense that is capable of moving the ball well both in the pass and run game.
Tight end John Carlson is getting closer to returning to the lineup. Frazier said he may get back from the injury next week, which happened two weeks ago.
Adrian Peterson looked extremely fast in practice in the passing drills in which he was catching swing passes and turning upfield. He will be able to return to full pads Tuesday. Under the new collective bargaining agreement, when a player comes off the physically-unable-to-perform list, teams must wait two days to allow them into full pads.
Frazier was aware of the league rule about contact for Peterson and he said not only did he talk with A.P., he "over-clarified" what he could and could not do in practice today.
Defensive end Jeff Charleston, who has missed time in training camp with an ankle injury, was sidelined Monday after complaining of headaches following Friday's game. He was held out of practice as a precaution.
Brandon Fusco continues to take the vast majority of first-team snaps at right guard.
Jordan Todman has returned to practice, but it is clear that his ankle injury is still bothering him and he was heavily favoring the injured ankle during practice when he was on the field.
Kicker Blair Walsh was working on on-side kicks during the middle of practice and it seems clear that his style is to kick the ball violently into the ground and get a high bounce to allow his teammates to run under it and create a jump ball situation.
Percy Harvin tweaked his left ankle when making a cut during drills, but stayed on the field and returned to the rotation of receivers after missing a couple of turns.
Chris Cook made a couple of nice plays during 11-on-11 passing drills – breaking up a pass intended for Michael Jenkins from Christian Ponder and running stride for stride with Jerome Simpson on a deep pass that was slightly overthrown.
Things got a little chippy at times during practice. Erin Henderson lit up Joe Berger in run drills, sending Berger flying backward with words being exchanged. At other times during practice, there were minor dust-ups, but they were broken up quickly – leading more to trash-talking than physical altercations.
Toby Gerhart took a big hit from Jasper Brinkley in goal-line drills and fumbled the ball. The defense had a couple of big stops in the goal-line 11-on-11 drills, giving them reason to chirp at the offensive players.
Things weren't always running smoothly for the defense. In 11-on-11 drills, Jared Allen had to call a timeout because the defense only had 10 men on the field and Allen was the first to notice it.
Devin Aromashodu had a very strong practice, getting targeted often during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills and catching just about everything thrown his way.
The players came to practice after going as a team to see the comedy movie Ted Sunday night. The team reserved a theatre in Mankato for a showing just for the team and several players reported that there was a lot of laughter and considered the film a nice break from the daily grind of training camp.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.