Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Confident Griffen looking forward to contributing more in 2012

Posted by: under Vikings, Super Bowl, Brian Robison, Jared Allen Updated: July 19, 2012 - 12:32 PM

As the Vikings prepare to head to Mankato next week for the opening of training camp, Everson Griffen is preparing to accept a new job description. Griffen is entering his third year with the Vikings and looking to get on the field in whatever way possible. The Vikings want that to happen as well. So rather than keep Griffen stuck on the sideline while Jared Allen and Brian Robison take the bulk of the game snaps at defensive end, the Vikings have plans to give Griffen a serious look at linebacker throughout camp.

“Everson is just so talented,” general manager Rick Spielman said. “So our coaching staff is really working hard to figure out ways to get our best 11 on the field.”

So what attributes does Spielman see in Griffen that has him optimistic about a conversion?

“Everson is so talented as an athlete,” Spielman said. “When you watched him last year on special teams, we used him outside. That’s a 270-pound man out there as a gunner. And he’s flying down there and guys can’t block him and his ability to break down the space, those are some of the unique things he does. If he can work well in space like he did in special teams, maybe that can transfer some to linebacker.”

Last week, we caught up with Griffen during a workout at the University of Minnesota, where he spoke candidly about what’s ahead for him in 2012. Here are a half-dozen nuggets of note from that conversation.

On his mindset heading into Mankato …
"My goal is to come in in the best shape as possible. I want to go out there and whatever role they give me, I’m going to run with it. I plan to come back in shape and mentally ready to go. That’s the only thing I can do. I’ve been very focused on getting in shape and going over my plays to learn our defense even better."
 
On the shift to linebacker …
"They’ve told me to come in right, come back in shape and come in ready to learn. That’s my entire mindset behind it. I’m just trying to come in right and ready to go. I need to help this team out to win games."
 
On what he can bring to the linebacker position …
"I can bring a bit of everything. More than anything, I want to be a confident guy. I’m fast to the ball. Explosive. I can blow up the fullback. I can play left or right. I can cover tight ends. I’m versatile. So whatever they give me, I’ll run with it. We had that package last year where I played some linebacker. We’re going to mix that in more. And that’s all I can hope for – just getting more plays, more snaps. And when I get those snaps, I need to show them that I should be out there every play. I just want to play. Whatever they give me, I’m going to run with it and go. I just want to play somewhere. And I feel like I can help take this defense to a new level, along with Jared [Allen], Kevin [Williams], Chad [Greenway]. That’s what I’m here for. I’m here to make me better and I’m here to help make them better. I want Jared to win a Super Bowl. Kevin. I want to get these guys to get to the next level and get that ring."
 
On where he feels the Vikings’ defense is headed …
"We’re looking good. The new defensive coordinator, Coach [Alan] Williams is an incredibly bright guy. He’s very precise with his work. Very detailed. We like him. And we’re going to take his direction and run with it. We’re going to call a defense and we have to execute no matter what he gives us. This is about execution. Hit your assignments. Hit your gaps and play football. He’s all about being aggressive. Running to the ball. Get the ball out. Force fumbles. Do the whole nine to get the offense back on the field as much as possible. Coach Williams clearly loves the game. And when he steps on the field, he gives you everything he’s got. That’s why we love the guy."
 
On the positive energy that was present throughout the offseason …
"We’re pros. And while our record last year wasn’t what we wanted, you have to come back with an excitement to improve. Make yourself better. Make the team better. And make sure that at the end of the day, you’ve dedicated yourself and you know you’re not the weakest link of the team. You have to take it very seriously and make certain you’re in shape and you’re prepared when they call your name to get on the field."
 
On new defensive line coach Brendan Daly …
"He’s great, man. A young guy, upbeat. He’s always going 100 miles per hour. I love the guy, love his energy. He’s detailed. He’s an energized coach. And that enthusiasm is non-stop. If you’re not ready to go, I can bet you he’s going to make you ready to go. If you’re at 85 miles per hour, he’s going to get you to 100 and get you up to his speed. He looks out for you."
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