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Everson Griffen: Director's Cut


There's a reason Everson Griffen ranks among the league leaders in sacks. Again.

In almost every interview the Vikings defensive end has done this season, Griffen has mentioned that he has consistently worked to hone the mental aspect of his game.

But just what has Griffen been focused on? 

Vikings defensive line coach Andre Patterson, whom Griffen routinely calls the best in the league at his job, gave a little bit of insight to what the defensive end has been doing away from practice.

Let's just call it a little behind-the-scenes work.

"He's studying a lot of film on his own. I make cut-ups for him and have them put on his iPad," Patterson said. "That's on his day off (usually Tuesday in a normal week), so by the time he comes in here on Wednesday, he's already watched the guys he's going to go up against.

"He's watched their style of run plays, where their protections are going, so he's already ahead of the game before he comes back in here on Wednesday," Patterson added. "That's been a change. And I think he's figured out over all these years of being in the league that those kinds of things help you on game day."

Griffen has proven that to be true so far during the 2017 season.

The former fourth-round pick has 7.0 sacks in six games, and he has recorded at least one sack in each game this season.

Griffen now has 55 career sacks and is on the cusp of landing on the top 10 list in Vikings franchise history for the most all-time sacks. Fellow Vikings defensive end Brian Robison ranks ninth in team history with 57, and Henry Thomas is 10th with 56.

But Griffen said recently that he's not focused on personal accolades. Instead, he's trying to do all he can to help a 4-2 Vikings team get back to the playoffs and win its second NFC North title in a three-season span.

"Of course I'm aware of it, but I take it one game at a time," Griffen said of the sacks streak to start his season. "I'm just trying to do my job. It's about being mentally locked in. My goal is to be mentally locked in for 16 games and see where it takes me.

"This is the first time in my career where honestly I've been locked in like this. I'm seeing the results of doing it at a high level," Griffen added. "It took me eight years to finally get to this point, to realize what it takes. I always had the talent and the potential … but it was always my mental [game] that held me back, but now I see it."

While Griffen has worked to improve his mental consistency, his physical play has always been there.

Just ask one of Griffen's most sought-after opponents and his head coach.

"He's a fantastic player," said Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. "I just think that every year as a veteran player, you continue to master your craft. For him, he has all the moves. 

"He's extremely strong, he has a great spin move, he can stab, he can speed-to-power, he can power-to-rip, he can walk a guy back into your lap. He can do it all," Rodgers added before Minnesota's Week 6 win in which he suffered a potential season-ending injury. "He's a fantastic player … he's been a fantastic player in the division and the league for a long time now."

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer sees Griffen up close each and every day and echoed Rodgers' comments about one of the NFL's best defensive ends.

"I think the biggest thing with Everson is he's relentless in his rush," Zimmer said. "He believes he can win all the time, and probably where he's grown most of all is sticking to the rush plan.

"There's time where he can go out and beat guys, but because of the way that we're trying to rush certain quarterbacks, he might power them down a little bit more, sit at the quarterback, as opposed to try to beat his guy 1-on-1," Zimmer added.

Griffen has used a rare blend of power, speed and technique to rack up 37.5 sacks since the start of the 2014 season, which ranks tied for fourth-most  in the league over that span.

But don't expect Griffen to divulge his go-to move anytime soon. Why? Because apparently he doesn't have one.

"It's a combination of everything," Griffen said. "I talk about [famed martial artist] Bruce Lee a lot. One of Bruce Lee's sayings is, 'I have no technique. My technique is a result of your technique, and my movement is a result of your movement.'

"So basically, whatever [the opposing offensive tackle] does, I react to him. I have no plan," Griffen added. "I'm not thinking of a spin move. Whatever he gives me, I take it."

Patterson backed up Griffen's thought process on the field.

"That's what I teach," Patterson said. "We don't line up with a move in mind. We think about getting off at the snap of the ball, taking a good rush angle and attacking what we see.

"He's bought into that wholeheartedly," Patterson said. "And he's done that from the beginning. I just think now he's taken it to another level."

Griffen's renewed approach to the mental side of his game has been noticeable so far in 2017. But he insists he still has a long way to go to get where he wants to be.

And, after signing a contract extension this past summer, he'll also have the chance to help the Vikings achieve the ultimate prize as well.

"It takes 16 games. I'm trying to win a big fatty, I'm trying to win a Super Bowl," Griffen said. "The ownership and the coaching staff believed in me and had faith in me, so now it's time to return the faith and return the favor.

"I want to give them everything I can at a high level," Griffen added.

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