Defensive end Everson Griffen is, unquestionably, one of the leaders of the Minnesota Vikings’ defense. He’s also one of its longest-tenured, having joined the team in 2010 (though it really doesn’t seem like that long ago). As the Vikings go through Training Camp over the next couple of weeks, Griffen is going to have a lot of the focus on him, and he finally got an opportunity to take some questions from the media on Friday in Eagan. Let’s take a look at what he had to say.
Q: Is the first red zone for you and your defense against the offense a fun time?
A: I think the red zone is a very important situation that we go through. We have to stop them from scoring a touchdown and we have to get better at that. I think we did a good job last year but, there is always room for improvement. I think it will be up to us to have that mindset as they get closer to the goal line that we have to beef up and get ready to stop them.
Q: How do you think things have been going so far with Sheldon Richardson and that chemistry between you two?
A: It is going good, he is looking good. He’s learning as he goes, the technique that our coach teaches us is a lot different from what he has done in the previous years. I feel like he is doing a good job locking in on that and getting better at pass rush. He’s doing his job and we are going to need him to keep getting better every single day and one percent better every single day.
Q: What are your thoughts on the new rules?
A: The rules are the rules. The rules are going to be the rules, I am not going to really comment too much on it. We have to follow the rules, and the rules are going to be the rules. There is nothing I can say or do to change them. The rules are going to be the rules.
Q: How have you noticed young pass rushers when they come into the NFL? How are they evolving from the college game?
A: I think the hardest thing for them is everyone is good now in the NFL. You are going against a guy that is very good and that is studying you and knows you. The biggest thing they are going to have to do is learn technique. Whoever is going to be the better technician that day is going to be able to win that play and I think that is what they have to adapt to. I believe that is what they have to adapt to. Everyone is good in this league. In college you can be the best player at that position going against not so good of a player. When you get to the NFL you have to be able to adapt and master your craft.
Q: How important is it to have a signature pass rushing move?
A: I think you have to know yourself. I think that is the biggest thing. I think you have to know what you are good at. Are you fast? Are you quick? Do you have long arms? Do you have good feet? When you find out who you are as a pass rusher then you know what moves work for you and you use those moves and master those moves and then you always a secondary move off that.
Q: How long did it take you to find that move when you were developing?
A: I think am still developing. You still can always improve. There is always more room for improvement. You can never gain too much mastery or too much craft. I am always trying to improve on my craft and my mastery.
Q: What is your impression on the way Dalvin has looked during camp?
A: He is coming off of an ACL. Very fortunate, I have never had that surgery, and I don’t know what he has been through and that situation, but he is looking good, looking explosive, cuts are looking crisp. He is down hill running, getting the ball. All of the backs are looking good. Latavius [Murray] is looking good, looking quicker, looking faster. I feel like we just have to keep on doing what we are doing each and every day. Like Coach Zimmer always says, “Iron sharpens iron,” and we have to go out there and compete and get better, just hold each other accountable, I think that is the biggest thing. Once you start holding each other accountable, that is where the success happens.
Q: What is it like to see the continuity on offense?
A: It is awesome. You know you have guys that are playmakers, and you have to keep the playmakers around. I call them the pretty boys, the ones that like scoring touchdowns and being on camera. They are doing a good job. [Adam] Thielen, [Stefon] Diggs, [Laquon] Treadwell, Kirk Cousins. [Kirk] is a leader, he is a motivator. I think his communication is key. He is a big communicator. You see the great quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, all of those guys, they communicate. They make sure guys are in the right spots, doing the things on the right plays. I think that is what Kirk Cousins brings to the game. He is a great leader, great communicator, and he is one hell of a competitor too.
Q: Who is doing most of the communicating on defense?
A: [Eric] Kendricks gets us lined up, [Anthony] Barr makes the close call. I think we’re all communicating with one another. I think communication is key, especially with all the checks and balances we have, like down left and down right. I think communicating across the board is key because if you don’t know where you are on the field. That’s the number one thing, communication.
Q: What’s your favorite part of Saturday night practice?
A: I love this game. It’s a privilege to play this game, I feel like the best thing that you can do is compete. If you’re not competing, then you shouldn’t be in the NFL trying. It’s about competing, and any day that I get to go out there and compete on the field, that’s what it is about. Competing, master my craft, and getting better each and every day. I’m trying to get the young guys better. The faster you get the young guys better, the better team you’re going to have, because it’s all about the youth to be honest. I feel like it’s all about competing. Each day you get to step on the field, you compete. That’s I know, that’s what I learned, that’s what I love to do. You got to love this game of people.
Q: Have any of the young defensive ends stood out to you?
A: Yeah, they’re doing a good job. Our technique that we have is hard. You have to go out there with the mindset of mastering it each and every day. They’re doing a great job at that. I think every young guy has to listen more and take more notes, but they’re doing a great job for us.
Q: From your perspective, does it feel like there is a heated competition amongst younger players to be part of the defensive line rotation?
A: Yeah, I think it is. Rotation is key, but the coach has got to trust the people who are rotating. Without the trust, they aren’t going to be in the rotation. With the trust there is going to be a rotation. I feel like the biggest thing for them is to go out there each and every day and get better. That’s all they can do. They can’t worry about what the media says, what the guy next to them says. You got to go in and hone in on your talents and hone in on your abilities to be able to be on the field.