Former Vikings tight end Steve Jordan was talking about Thursday night’s Ring of Honor ceremony when he took a moment to salute current Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen as an inspiration for people dealing with mental health issues.
“There are so many aspects of mental health that people are talking about more openly and wanting to deal with appropriately,” Jordan said. “Obviously, mental health is starting to become less of a bad moniker. And what Everson has done in the last year, I really think he’s going to be a light for a lot of people because he’s done so well working through his issues.”
Jordan has known Griffen since the latter was a teenager competing in high school track in Arizona against Jordan’s son, Cam, now a Saints defensive end. In 2007, Cam won Arizona’s 5A state discus title at Chandler High while Griffen won the 4A state discus at Agua Fria High.
“I always check in with Everson when I’m in town at the stadium,” Jordan said. “Just to see how he’s doing. Obviously, he had some things happen last year. It’s been great to talk to him and talk through that with him.
“To be in a situation where you can encourage a young man like that is wonderful. To see how he’s back on track and doing very, very well is amazing to see.”
Griffen missed five games last season as he dealt with mental health issues. He returned for the final eight games and was understandably rusty on the field.
That’s no longer the case. Just ask his coach, Mike Zimmer.
“He’s playing excellent, maybe as good as I’ve seen him play since he’s been here,” Zimmer said. “What makes Everson really, really good is his effort that he plays with, the violence that he plays with and he’s going to make it a full-day affair for that offensive tackle he’s going against.
“We’re asking him to do some things that really defensive ends don’t want to do, and he goes in there and does them.”
In other words, Griffen embraces run defense. And game plans like last week against Philadelphia, when Zimmer moved the right end to an interior position in some passing downs.
A lot of elite edge rushers are easily annoyed by being asked to move inside or maintain gap integrity. And Griffen certainly qualifies as an elite edge rusher, ranking seventh in team history with 69½ sacks, including three this year.
“He is a really unique individual in that he’s all about the team,” Zimmer said. “… Since whenever I made him a captain a few years back, he’s really taken to that role. I think he feels like this is home. He loves the fans here. He loves the relationship with the rest of the guys, and I think it shows.”
And he took a $3 million pay cut to boot.
Around the time Jordan praised Griffen, Star Tribune co-worker Andrew Krammer, the Wise Young Owl, asked if Griffen might garner any consideration for the Associated Press’ NFL Comeback Player of the Year award.
As one of the 50 voters, my thought is, “Why not?”
When it comes to this award, I’ve not voted for guys coming back from self-inflicted issues such as holdouts (sorry, Le’Veon), suspensions, arrests and incarcerations (retroactive sorry, Michael Vick). Griffen doesn’t fall into any of those categories.
Andrew Luck won last year after missing all of 2017 because of a shoulder injury. This year, the front-runner is 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo with former Viking and current Saints savior Teddy Bridgewater poised to overtake him depending on how long he keeps winning in Drew Brees’ absence.
Garoppolo is 5-0 a year after a torn ACL limited him to three games. Bridgewater is a more stunning 4-0 in the only four meaningful starts he’s had since that gruesome knee injury threatened his career the week before the 2016 season.
As for Griffen, he’s a long shot who could climb if he were to begin a torrential streak of sacks and enter the All-Pro conversation like he did two years ago.
But, either way, that’s irrelevant to the guy going into the Ring of Honor on Thursday.
“I’m just proud of the guy,” Jordan said.
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org