Since Everson Griffen came into the league in 2010 the Vikings star defensive end has seen how dominant the Packers can be as they have posted a 10-5-1 record against Griffen in the regular season and won a playoff game in Lambeau.
With two-time MVP Aaron Rodgers questionable to play on Sunday, Griffen was asked if he wants to face the star quarterback.
“I want Rodgers to play. This is the part of the National Football League, you want the best players to play so you can raise your caliber of play and go out there and play,” Griffen said. “He is one of the best. I want him healthy. I want him to play. I don’t want nobody to hurt. I want it fair. I want no excuses made.”
The tide has been turning in the rivalry as the Vikings have won four of their past five games against the Packers and two of the past three in Green Bay.
“It is tough. It’s a good environment. The fans are rude, but at the end of the day we’re there for one thing and that’s to play the best football we can play on that day,” Griffen said. “Eliminate penalties, mental errors, turnovers and do our job.”
Griffen has 11 sacks and 43 tackles in 17 games against the Packers. He was asked if he thinks the Packers will have a different strategy for blocking him.
“It’s going to be difficult, once again, very difficult for them,” he said.
“I’ve had great days in Green Bay. I’m just excited to go out there and help my team win each and every day, execute my assignment, do my job and lead my team by example.”
Is this a bigger game than most?
“This is a big game, each and every week is a big game,” he said. “I take it game by game and week by week and rep by rep.”
After notching four tackles and half a sack in the season-opening win against the 49ers, does Griffen think the Vikings have a chance on Sunday?
“Do I think we can win?” he asked. “Absolutely I think we can win. It’s going to be a challenge, but absolutely I think we can win.”
One of the best parts of Griffen’s game is that even though he has averaged over 10 sacks the past four seasons, made three straight Pro Bowls and was named second-team All-Pro last year, he is still trying to find new ways to dominate on defense.
“My goals are to help my team win, first and foremost, cut my hair every day, and work on my fundamentals of the game,” he said. “Get better at my craft each and every day, and get ready to push for the Super Bowl.”
What does he work on?
“I think doing the little things, being in the right spot, knowing what to do before the ball is snapped, studying more tape, knowing the guy better than you know your own phone number, doing the little things,” Griffen said.
Hope Mauer returns
There is no doubt that if the Twins’ top brass have their way, first baseman and former MVP Joe Mauer will be back with the team in 2019.
But the big question is whether Mauer wants to play, and if you want my opinion, there is no chance he will come back next year.
He doesn’t need the money, he is a big family man and he is away from his wife on all of the Twins’ road trips, and now she is expecting a third child. I’m sure Mauer wants to spend more time with his twin daughters, as well.
Unfortunately if Mauer doesn’t come back the Twins will lose one of their most popular players of all time.
Mauer is the only player on the team who sells tickets, and nobody comes close to him as a leader in the clubhouse.
While the Twins won’t pay him $23 million per season, they would keep him as the highest-paid player on the team.
It boils down to whether Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey and General Manager Thad Lavine can convince Mauer to return, whether Mauer still enjoys playing the game and whether he’s willing to deal with the travel.
Mauer has played well this season. Heading into Thursday night’s game against Kansas City, his .274 batting average and .345 on-base percentage were second among American League first basemen, and he has played great defense at first base.
And while the Twins have lost some popular players in recent months to make the team younger and cheaper, Mauer is a different situation entirely.
He’s an eventual Hall of Famer, one of the greatest Twins of all time, a former No. 1 overall pick, a standout community member and a hometown player.
Wyler anchors line
Gophers center Jared Weyler said that without Rodney Smith at running back he has a lot of belief that freshman running backs Mo Ibrahim and Bryce Williams can keep the offense moving.
“Adversity brings this team together,” he said. “Rodney is a tremendous leader, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he continues to lead this football team and continues to lead that running back room and help those guys out.”
The Gophers, after two games, are tied for ninth in the country for average time of possession and are tied for the Big Ten lead with Wisconsin at 35 minutes per game.
A huge part of that has been the offensive line controlling the line of scrimmage.
“We’ve played well, I think, the first two weeks,” Weyler said. “We have a lot to improve upon, but it has been a good sign to see that guys come to work every day and guys want to get better and guys want to get coached.”
Weyler, who is on the watch list for the Rimington Award, which goes to the nation’s best center, is from Dayton, Ohio. He said he grew up playing against a number of players for Miami (Ohio), the Gophers’ opponent Saturday.
“They’re going to be tough, going to be physical and they have a lot of good players,” Weyler said.
• Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck went up against Miami (Ohio) twice when he was at Western Michigan and won both games, 35-13 in 2015 and 41-10 in 2014.
• While the Gophers were 11th in pass defense last year at 174 yards per game, they are 76th this year, allowing 222.5 yards per game. On the other hand last season they were 74th in run defense, allowing 172 yards per game. This season they are eighth, allowing 62.5 yards per game.
• Incoming Gophers wrestling star Gable Steveson is heading to the Junior World Championships in Trnava, Slovakia, next week. The four-time state champ from Apple Valley has won three straight age-group world titles, including last year’s Junior World Championship.
• The Gophers will hold a grand opening Monday for their new track, which has been years in the making.