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.


Giddy Griffen to Vikings: 'Thank you, thank you, thank you.'

Posted by: Mark Craig under NFC Updated: March 11, 2014 - 4:08 PM

Everson Griffen was talking about football as fast and as energetically as he plays the game during a conference call with reporters earlier today.

Needless to say, the defensive end who just got $42.5 million over five years with $20 million of it guaranteed is ecstatic that the Vikings trusted him enough to make him the high-priced replacement for Jared Allen, one of the best defensive ends to ever wear the Purple.

Asked how he'll live up to the pressure of being given that kind of contract to replace one of the team's all-time great players, Griffen said, "I got a workout at 10 o'clock tomorrow.

"I'm going right back to work. With more responsibility, that means you got to work harder, you got to be disciplined and the biggest thing is you got to listen. This whole game is built on listening. The coach is here to coach you and you are here to listen. It should be no ifs, ands or buts about it. They're going to tell you want to do and you're going to do it. I'm ready to listen and take this next step and become a leader. I'm excited and over-thankful. Just thank you, thank you, thank you."

As for how he'll be used, Griffen said he's not exactly sure. In his first four seasons, his unusual combination of speed, athletic ability and size enabled the Vikings to use him in many different ways. He backed up both end positions, rushed from the tackle spot in the nickel defense, lined up as a fourth linebacker and played everywhere on special teams, including the gunner on the punt team.

Griffen said new coach Mike Zimmer hasn't clearly defined his role, but was quick to add throughout the conference call that he trusts Zimmer's ability to "pull the best out of his players."

"He's going to use me," Griffen said. "They know how to use their players. I feel talking to the coaches I sat down with a little bit, they know how to use their players. They know how to put you in the right situation at the right time to make a big play. I just feel like with his mastermind skills and what he brings to the table, he's going to use not just me but every single player on the team the right way. We got all the talent in the world, but when all the talent is used right then the sky is the limit.

"I'm going to take my freakish athletic ability and use it day in and day out. I'm just ready to work and get back to what I know, and that's hard work and working on my mental focus."

Griffen did hint that he expects to see the majority of his action at right defensive end, where Allen will no longer be there to take the majority of reps. And that, Griffen said, should help him reach a higher level "because I haven't even scratched the surface yet."

"Look at Jared Allen," Griffen said. "Jared Allen is in my era of playing defensive end, he is the best player I've seen at defensive end. He was smart, he had wisdom, he listened and he worked. This type of stuff doesn't happen by you just being a guy. You have to work at it like Jared did. Jared taught me everything I know about football today. He taught me little techniques about how to use your hands, and he became a master of his craft by playing one position. When I get the oppotunity to because a master of my craft at one position, I just want to reach that feeling that I can go to whatever limits because I know I can push myself to the max."

But Griffen said he's also open to moving around if it's in the team's best interest.

"I'm not saying I'm done playing all those positions," Griffen said. "But I know I'm going to be used. It's all about maximizing my potential, maximizing my athletic ability. That's what they're going to do with me. So if I do stand up and rush or I kick down inside and do it, that's what's best for the team.  At the end of the day, I know I'm going to be used and that's all I can ask for. I know I got my chance and my chance is now. 

"Now, the only thing I got to do is go work. And I'm going to work out tomorrow at 10 if you want to come and watch. It's had Higher Power training right here in Eden Prairie. So if you want to come and join me, you can. But you might pass out. But you can come and join me and see all this hard work that I got for you."

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