MINNEAPOLIS — Everson Griffen felt a wide range of emotions Sunday as the clock ticked down to kickoff.
The Vikings defensive end had missed the previous five games to focus on his own personal health issues, but made his return to the field on Sunday Night Football in a 30-20 loss to New Orleans.
"As I put on my pads, talking to the fellas, walking in the building … it was a combination of everything," Griffen said. "Just the whole day. Just sitting around in the hotel room and thinking about the game and watching a little tape and getting back to the basics.
"Walking in here for the first time [in five weeks], talking to [the equipment guys], warming up and going through my routine … that creates good habits," Griffen added.
Griffen, who did not start but came in on the third play of the game, did not record a sack. He said he felt rusty in his first game since mid-September in Green Bay, and he was flagged for a pair of penalties in the game.
Griffen said it hardly mattered how he played, he was just happy to be back on the field and get a sense of normalcy back into his professional life.
Vikings fans gave Griffen a loud ovation when he was shown on the video board before the game, and when he was in on a tackle during plays.
"I'm here to play good ball, and it felt amazing to be back on the field at U.S. Bank Stadium and be out there with the best fans in the world," Griffen said. "It was a disappointing loss, but we've got to get back to the drawing board. But it felt great to be out there."
"It felt so good. It showed the people care, and I really appreciate that," Griffen later added. "There's a lot of love out there for me. My whole goal is to get back to my form and knock the rust off and get back to the grind."
Griffen's teammates said they welcomed No. 97's return to organization and to the field.
"It's awesome to see him back out there," said Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph. "I mean, he just provides such a spark and an energy.
"His smile is contagious, his enthusiasm's contagious, so it was good to see him back out there," Rudolph added.
Added Vikings safety Harrison Smith: "Obviously we want him back as a football player, but as a person, that's my buddy, so I want him to do great off the field as well. That's what he's doing, and we're just welcoming him back."
Vikings defensive end Stephen Weatherly, who started in place of Griffen, added:
"It was definitely something we missed. His pregame speeches definitely get you charged up and you definitely feel the electricity. You can definitely tell he loves the game and that energy spreads.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said after the game that Griffen was on a limited snap count.
"I hadn't played football in five weeks, so I'm just happy to be out here with my team," Griffen said. "That's all I care about.
"I'm ready for this week of practice and to get back to the basics and get back to form," Griffen later added.