Everson Griffen’s days experimenting as a linebacker are finished. On Monday afternoon, after the Vikings’ 13th practice of training camp, head coach Leslie Frazier acknowledged that Griffen was headed back to the defensive line permanently.
The Vikings had arrived in Mankato with visions of converting Griffen into a linebacker, wanting to find ways to get him on the field more. Last year, Griffen’s playing time as a defensive end was limited, mostly because Jared Allen and Brian Robison rarely needed to come off the field.
But Griffen’s combination of size – he’s 6-3, 273 pounds – and raw athleticism gave Frazier and his coaching staff an idea to test the third-year veteran in a new role.
After nearly three weeks of practice and one preseason game, that idea has been scrapped.
“We feel like this is going to be better for him,” Frazier said. “We talked to him Sunday night when we got back. And he agrees.”
Frazier said he feels comfortable with the depth the Vikings currently have at weakside linebacker with starter Erin Henderson and back-up Marvin Mitchell providing decent depth. Plus, Griffen had done nothing in the early stages of the preseason to challenge that pecking order.
“I think sometimes, with so many things coming at you, when you’re off the ball, it can be a tough deal,” Frazier said.
The Vikings still have plans to give Griffen an opportunity to assume some linebacker-type responsibilities in third down, pass-rushing situations as they did a year ago.
In other post-practice news ...
- Rookie safety Harrison Smith seems to have officially supplanted Jamarca Sanford in the starting lineup. Frazier wouldn't go so far to say that it was a permanent move. But Smith will start Friday in the Vikings' second preseason game against Buffalo. And unless he really messes up, it's hard to see him losing his grip on that spot.
- Fellow first-round draft pick Matt Kalil had to leave the field for a bit Monday afternoon after suffering an injury to his right thumb. Kalil was taken back to the locker room where he had tests on the thumb. Those came back negative and he returned to finish the afternoon. For those curious, while Kalil was away, left guard Charlie Johnson moved back to left tackle where he started last season and Joe Berger moved in to the left guard spot.
- Poor Jordan Todman. The second-year running back is running out of time to show that he deserves to make this team. Todman has been hindered by a sprained ankle for a week now. And while he continues to try to tough through the pain, he's not healthy enough to do much work. Todman was in full pads Monday and did some light work early. But he did not participate in any of the team scrimmage sessions. With Adrian Peterson returning to practice, Toby Gerhart continuing to excel and Lex Hilliard tightening his grip on the No. 3 job, Todman's frustration is growing. Said Frazier: "He’s one of those guys we want to be out there. We know it. But it’s just one of those things. It’s football. It happens. It’s out of his control and we’ll have to try to balance it as we try to make a decision about what guys to keep. But it’s tough when you’re in his spot."