Everson Griffen is a man of unwithering emotion — it’s what made him one of the most beloved Vikings in team history for 10 years before he parted ways with the team this past offseason.
Griffen will return to U.S. Bank Stadium this Sunday when the Lions visit his former team in what’s becoming a high stakes NFC North matchup that’ll determine the trajectory for the rest of the Vikings’ season.
Mike Zimmer made it clear Sunday will be no love fest and happy family reunion, saying “Everson was a good player for us. I wish him well, just not this week,” earlier this week.
Good, not great, became an issue for Griffen who called his former coach out on Thursday.
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Griffen: ‘He’s Going to Put Respect on My Name’
Griffen started in one game in the first four seasons of his NFL career before Zimmer took the helm of the Vikings. As a result of playing in Zimmer’s defensive scheme, Griffen earned four Pro Bowl under Zimmer and had three double-digit sack seasons since 2014.
Griffen took Zimmer’s “good,” not great, comment as a slight, given Griffen has credited his rise as a Pro Bowl defensive end to Zimmer.
— LionsFanReport (@lionsfanreport) November 5, 2020
Here’s what Griffen said during the videoconference:
I got a little frustrated when I read that comment what Zimmer said, ‘Oh, Everson was a good player.’ Like, Coach Zimmer just wasn’t a good coach, he was a great coach to me, so for him to call me a good player, that kind of hurts my feelings.
I be looking and, I’m just a good player? All right, he got a good player coming his way. He’s going to see Sunday what he got coming for him.
Griffen added: “He’s going to put respect on my name, that’s all I’m saying. He [wasn’t just] a good coach to me, he was a great coach. He helped me improve, helped me grow. I don’t ever talk bad about people, so for him to call me a good player, all right, I got something for him on Sunday.”
I gave everything for that team. So yes I expect more.
— Everson Griffen (@EversonGriffen) November 5, 2020
Griffen’s Departure Debunked
In February, Griffen opted out of the final three years of his contract in what was the first of a mass exodus of Vikings veterans on defense that helped lift the franchise to national notoriety with three playoff berths and an NFC title game appearance in 2017. Many of the following departures came a month later after Kirk Cousins’ contract extension, which spurred the release of Linval Joseph and all three starting cornerbacks in Xavier Rhodes, Mackenzie Alexander and Trae Waynes.
Griffen, who had already taken a pay cut in 2019, restructured his player-option contract, which included clauses that allowed him the option to void his contract and seek free agency if he met certain benchmarks. Griffen, who totaled eight sacks and played on 78 percent of defensive snaps to earn his fourth Pro Bowl season in 2019, saw the writing on the wall that his contract could be cut after Cousins’ $66 million two-year contract extension in March.
Griffen entered free agency and saved the Vikings over $13 million, getting them under the projected salary cap for the first time during the offseason while eating roughly $800,000 in dead money.
Griffen remained in contact with the Vikings which had extended an offer to re-sign, however, Griffen was likely given a better deal by the Dallas Cowboys for a single-year, $6 million contract.
He played seven games with the Cowboys before joining the Lions.
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Trevor Squire is a Heavy contributor covering the Minnesota Vikings and journalism graduate from the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities. Connect with him on Twitter @trevordsquire and join our Vikings community at Heavy on Vikings on Facebook.