Everson Griffen wanted a shot to prove himself as a starter. He wanted the chance to find stability at one position. He wanted more financial stability, too.
He appears to be getting all of that with his five-year, $42.5 million contract to stay with the Minnesota Vikings in a new defensive scheme. He will be a starter at defensive end, likely right defensive end. The $19.8 million guaranteed gives him almost half of his total contract value and should set him up financially for the long term.
But now that Griffen has all that he also has plans to become a leader, along with Brian Robison, on the defensive line.
"That's what I was born to do. I was born to lead and born to help this team win," Griffen said after a recent workout with the Vikings. "That's all I'm trying to give back. I'm trying to help this team win and get all my boys going, along with B-Rob, you know, and just follow his lead and start something special here."
Griffen will no longer be in the long shadow of Robison and Allen, who played 84 and 91 percent of the defensive snaps, respectively, for the Vikings last year. Griffen is expected to take over for Allen, who signed a three-year deal with the Chicago Bears as a free agent, and all of the defensive linemen are expected to be rotated more in accordance with Mike Zimmer's defensive philosophy.
Griffen said he is going to be in better shape this year, knowing that more will be expected from him.
"I'm going to come in leaner. I'm going to come in stronger. I'm going to come in smarter," he said. "I'm just here to work with my teammates, man. We're trying to start something special here. We've got a group of young guys, and we're ready to go. We've just got to get in the playbook and learn the plays and get acclimated to the system."
Griffen expects the calls and formations on defense to be different, and he wasn't sure if he would stick strictly at one of the defensive end spots or rotate sides of the line.
What he anticipates being different is the atmosphere at Winter Park. It would be hard not to experience somewhat of a different feeling with a new coaching staff, new schemes on offense and defense and numerous new players stepping into extensive roles.
"I feel that this team, we want to be great. We're not going to settle for nothing less. We want to come out and give everything we've got," Griffen said. "We're going to come out and play as a team. We're going to be passionate, and we're going to love the game of football, so that's what we're going to do.
"It's awesome, man. It's awesome. It's an awesome feeling, and I'm happy to be back and happy to be lining up with my teammates."
Some of the teaching points about general philosophy are the same as they were under former coach Leslie Frazier – be physical, be smart, be passionate – but the techniques being taught will be different. That includes the defensive linemen.
The first two weeks of the Vikings' offseason program were dedicated mostly to strength and conditioning. Next week, they can start getting into techniques with position coaches and scheme work with the defense, although they aren't allowed to go against the offense, according to the rules of the collective bargaining agreement.
Still, Griffen sounded glad to get back to work with his best opportunity as a pro in front of him.
"I'm back with my teammates. You've got that team camaraderie, you know," he said, "just working together, grinding together and just trying to build something special here with the 2014 season."
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.
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