Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen, who has been away from the team for a month while receiving treatment for mental health issues, resumed team activities, including practice, Wednesday.
"The main focus isn't getting Everson ready to play," coach Mike Zimmer said at his morning news conference. "I'm sure some people in this room have dealt with some of these things. I don't think it's as unique as we make it out to be.
"This is an illness and he continues to try to get better."
Griffen took part in team meetings and practiced Wednesday afternoon. He was set to address reporters after practice ended.
"We'll see how he comes back," Zimmer said, when asked if Griffen would play Sunday night against New Orleans.
Griffen was taken to a mental health facility by ambulance Sept. 22 after being picked up in his Minnetrista neighborhood. According to police reports, he had been kept away from Vikings practices earlier that week with a request to seek mental health treatment.
"We have been in communication with Everson's medical professionals throughout this process," Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. "Our focus will continue to be on providing an ongoing support system for Everson and his family."
Said Griffen in the statement: "While this is an exciting and positive move forward for me, it is only the next step in a longer process. My larger focus remains on addressing my personal health, and I'm hopeful the time will come when I feel comfortable sharing my story and using my platform to bring awareness to these issues."
Griffen, who has missed the Vikings' past five games, drew police attention on the afternoon of Sept. 22 at the Hotel Ivy in downtown Minneapolis, where he was threatening to assault staff employees and lying on the lobby floor, according to a Minneapolis police incident report. Griffen had been staying at the hotel.
Later in the day, Griffen met with police outside his home and agreed to be taken for an evaluation. The 30-year-old was not arrested nor accused of a crime.
Griffen last played Sept. 16 against the Packers and suffered a knee injury.
The Vikings selected Griffen in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL draft. He has been chosen for the Pro Bowl the past three seasons and received a four-year, $58 million contract extension from the team in 2017 that put him under contract through the 2022 season. He was elected a team captain for the third consecutive season in 2018.
During his four weeks away from the team, his teammates expressed support when asked about the situation.
"When the situation with Everson came up, we knew he was in tremendous hands," defensive end Stephen Weatherly said two weeks ago.
With Griffen out, the Vikings moved Danielle Hunter to right end, starting Weatherly for the past five games at left end. Hunter has 7½ sacks this season, while Weatherly has two in his first substantive work as a starter.
Griffen's usual seat inside the defensive line meeting room, the one right next to his position coach, remained empty.
"Nobody else sits in that chair," defensive line coach Andre Patterson said. "He's still a part of us, and he always will be a part of us."
The NFL has taken strides to address mental health issues, especially since 2012, when Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau died by suicide — "a pivotal moment," said Arthur McAfee, the NFL's senior vice president of player engagement.
The league now has a 24-hour, confidential mental wellness and suicide prevention hotline for players and their families. Each player also has access to eight counseling sessions per year under their Cigna health insurance benefits.
Since 2016, the NFL Players Association has had its own director of player wellness, Dr. Nyaka NiiLampti.
Football has long fought the stigma that its players are too tough to talk about their mental struggles. But just the past year, former players such as Percy Harvin (anxiety) and Brian Dawkins (depression, suicidal thoughts) have opened up about battles from their playing days.
"I wouldn't say I savor those moments, but the more that we are willing to have those conversations in a public space, the less stigma is attached," NiiLampti said. "And the more people are willing to reach out because they recognize they're not alone."
Staff writer Joe Christensen contributed to this report.