After sitting on the sideline, Griffin hints at changes ahead

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG
  • Star Tribune
  • December 12, 2011 - 12:00 AM

DETROIT - Cedric Griffin's comeback from two severe knee injuries and possibly his Vikings career might have ended with him being benched after giving up yet another big play in the first quarter of Sunday's 34-28 loss to the Lions at Ford Field.

The embattled sixth-year cornerback spent the better part of the final 3 1/2 quarters watching from the sideline on one knee. Afterward, he hinted that it might be time to start fresh with another team in 2012.

Asked what it might take to turn his career back in the right direction, Griffin said: "If it's next year, hopefully, it's with a different mindset, a different group. It's just kind of frustrating."

Griffin signed a five-year, $28 million deal after the 2008 season. He had a team-high four interceptions and was a strong member of a team that ranked sixth in total defense and reached the NFC Championship Game in 2009.

Griffin's season, however, ended when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee while covering the kickoff to start overtime in that title game. He returned in time for Week 3 of the 2010 season but tore the ACL in his other knee in Week 5.

A week ago, coach Leslie Frazier was brutally honest when he said Griffin wasn't the same player he used to be and was still playing only because the Vikings secondary is so depleted. That ended Sunday when Griffin gave up a 57-yard TD pass to Titus Young with 9 minutes, 54 seconds left in the first quarter.

Young lined up wide left with Calvin Johnson in the slot next to him. Griffin didn't jam or redirect Young, allowing the speedy receiver to race past him untouched.

Safety Jamarca Sanford focused on Johnson and got caught flat-footed and out of position to help over the top when quarterback Matthew Stafford pump-faked to Johnson. From there, it was an easy throw over the top of the soundly beaten Griffin.

Frazier had seen enough. He benched Griffin and went with Benny Sapp at right corner and Marcus Sherels over the slot in the nickel defense. Sapp was out of work a month ago, while Sherels made the team as a punt returner.

Frazier said Griffin was benched because he didn't execute the "basic fundamentals that we ask."

"Being fundamentally sound and technique sound doesn't take a lot of talent," Frazier said. "We made that switch to get someone in there that would slow down the Titus Youngs of the world."

Sapp, who was released by the Dolphins after struggling against the Patriots in prime time in Week 1, said he felt bad for Griffin.

"It's embarrassing, low, but at the end of the day, this is a business," Sapp said. "The head man's always got to make a decision. He made a decision. As for Cedric, he's just got to come to practice and work hard, get his fundamentals down and get back in there."

Griffin said he's "not too worried" about the benching, hinting that his knees will get healthier in time.

"My skills are what they are right now," Griffin said. "If [Frazier] felt that's what he needed to do, that's what he needed to do. I'm going to keep moving and I'm sure I'll be fine."

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