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Everson Griffen Focusing on Mental Sharpness for 2017

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Everson Griffen has always had a relentless motor, which is evident by the 888 defensive snaps he played in 2016.

Yet as the Vikings defensive end prepares for his eighth season in Minnesota, he's more honed in on being mentally sharp each and every play.

"I just try improve every year, but this year I'm really focused on my mental game," Griffen said earlier this spring. "Football is really 80 percent mental and 20 percent physical … and I really try to tune in and figure out how to get that 80 percent mental (part) down.

"I always have the physical part of the game down (by) being an athlete, being a freak, but once you can lock in and tune in for a full game, that's when you can really be great," Griffen added. "That's what I'm trying to do."

Put another way, Griffen said he's ready to enjoy the grind of training camp, long practice days and the pressure to win on Sunday.

"It takes a lot to get the mental side of the game down," Griffen said. "You can have the physical attributes and body … you can be fast, quick, strong … but if you don't have that mental, it's not going to work."

Griffen produced plenty in 2016, as he recorded 61 total tackles and a team-high 68 quarterback hurries (according to coaches' tally). He added 8.0 sacks with three fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles.

It led to Griffen making the NFL's Top 100 list for the first time and a second straight trip to the Pro Bowl.

"Making the Top 100, that mean guys in the league kind of think you're the best of the best," Griffen said. "It's not about where you start, it's where you finish.

"Me making an appearance on there means guys respect your game and take notice of your hard work," Griffen added. "It means you do it at a high level each and every day, and it's a great honor to achieve." 

Griffen's teammates didn't need to see him land on the list to validate the consistency and effort he brings to the facility on a daily basis.

"His growth has been amazing to watch; it really has," said Vikings defensive end Brian Robison. "I mean, he came into this league as a young, immature rookie, and has really grown into being a man, a father figure, a loving husband to his wife and his kids, and he really has turned into one of those guys that's fun to be around and everything else but at the same time has grown into somebody who can be a role model for younger people."

Vikings tight end David Morgan tabbed Griffen as the defensive player in Minnesota he is most glad to not have to face in an actual game.

"I love practicing against him because he makes me better, but you know what he can do when it comes game day," Morgan said. "He's definitely an elite guy."

Griffen said one of his top priorities this season is helping the Vikings get back to the postseason a year after they finished 8-8.

But he also said there is some personal motivation as he sits at 48 career sacks, all of which have come in Purple.

You can guess what mindset and techniques he'll use to get there.

"I think I've got 6.0 more sacks to pass Keith Millard to be in the top 10 in Minnesota Vikings history," Griffen said. "It is a milestone to be in the top 10 sacks (category). Records are meant to be broken, and hopefully I can break one.

"Hopefully I can make my way into the top 10 in Vikings history and be in the Ring of Honor and hopefully one day a Hall of Famer," Griffen added. "That all starts with that mental (focus). All of those guys were able to have that mental focus day after day after day, and game after game after game. That's what takes you a long way."

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