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Everson Griffen Embodies Work Ethic of Vikings Defense

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Everson Griffen is convinced that this edition of the Vikings defense is the best that he's been on since entering the NFL in 2010.

But the defensive end also added a caveat, noting that defenses can only improve if they put the work in.

"I can say that (we're a good defense), but we have to come out here and work," Griffen said. "Our defense can be superb and great, but it's us to up to work at it each and every day."

If Minnesota's defense is about work ethic, Griffen might be the one leading the charge.

The 28-year-old is often the one leading drills and constantly encouraging his teammates to keep up.

Griffen looked like a cornerstone of the Vikings defense during Tuesday's non-contact practice, using a variety of moves to pressure the quarterback during team drills, showing what's helped him record 22.5 sacks since becoming a starter in 2014

"I like adding something new each year," Griffen said of his pass rush repertoire. "My biggest thing now is just to work on the four basic moves that I have and just master those.

"Whenever I can hit a changeup, a new move, then I'll try it," he added. "I'm just trying to build my mastery and build my craft and become the best pass rusher for this team."

One person who has noticed Griffen's tireless commitment to get better is Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer.

Zimmer said although the two didn't know each other when he was hired in 2014, they have similar perspectives on football.

"This kid works hard; he's a grinder, he wants to be great," Zimmer said Tuesday. "He loves the competitive part of the game, the physical part of the game, and he's a tremendous athlete that can do an awful lot of things.

"I guess his attitude and mine are similar in a lot of things," he added.

The Vikings have two more days of minicamp practices before getting more than a month off.

While training camp is just over six weeks away, the journey that is that 2016 season has already started for Griffen.

"With minicamp here, (the season) does feel closer," Griffen said. "We've got two more days of minicamp but we've got to finish off strong.

"The best thing for us to do is work," he added. "We have to grind each and every day and prepare ourselves and prepare our minds to be able to do this in the fourth quarter of Week 17."

View images from day one of minicamp.

Special guests

Former Vikings wide receiver Matthew Hatchette attended Tuesday's practice, as did former NFL linebacker Chris Spielman, the younger brother of Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman. Members of the Eden Prairie Police Department also took in practice from the sidelines.

Having fun with it

Vikings safety Harrison Smith is usually all over the field on defense, but his versatility included special teams on Tuesday. The Pro Bowl safety lined up as the kicker during a period that focused on kickoff returns., A machine sent balls toward the end zone, but Smith got in a few onside kicks..

Teddy Bridgewater also had a lighthearted moment with the defense. After the quarterback drew the opposition offsides, Bridgewater let out a playful laugh as he jogged down the field.

On the mend

A handful of Vikings did not practice on Tuesday. The list included guard Alex Boone, guard Mike Harris, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, defensive tackle Bruce Gaston, linebacker Travis Lewis and tight end Rhett Ellison.

Tuesday's top plays

The Vikings second-team defense had the play of the day on Tuesday that resulted in an interception.

Safety Antone Exum, Jr. delayed his blitz and then tipped a Shaun Hill pass that was picked off by linebacker Audie Cole.

Here are other highlights from Tuesday:

— Rookie defensive end Stephen Weatherly recovered a fumble early in team drills.

— Defensive tackle Shamar Stephen batted down a pass attempt by Shaun Hill at the line of scrimmage.

— Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn likely would have had a sack with a blitz off the edge.

— Safeties Andrew Sendejo and Anthony Harris each showed strong awareness by recovering surprise onside kicks during a special teams drill.

— Cornerback Trae Waynes had superb coverage on wide receiver Adam Thielen on a route near the right sideline.

— Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater fit a pass to tight end Kyle Rudolph into a tight window with linebacker Chad Greenway nearby in coverage.

— Defensive tackle Tom Johnson knocked down a Bridgewater pass at the line of scrimmage.

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