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Griffen Back to 'Smiling, Joking' After 'Rough Year'

EAGAN, Minn. – Twin Cities media members were greeted by a genuine, well-known smile Tuesday afternoon.

Everson Griffen flashed his familiar grin from the podium at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.

The defensive end acknowledged his "rough year" in 2018, during which he took some time away from the team to deal with personal issues and called it a blessing to be preparing for his 10th season in Purple.

"It feels good to be back in this building and being a Viking and just being around all my boys," Griffen said. "Really, I'm just happy. I'm just happy to be standing in front of you guys in this place I am right now."

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman **announced last month** that Griffen had re-worked his deal to remain in Minnesota. Griffen said that while it's a "tough pill to swallow" for a player to take less money, he knew it was the right thing to do.

"When I came back [last season], I didn't play that well," Griffen said. "I had a lot going on in my personal life, I was dealing with a lot, and I knew when the free agency time came around that it was going to lead up to me having to take a pay cut or something of that sort.

"But for me, it was bigger than football," Griffen said. "I took it upon myself and my family to make the right decision, to stay here, because I want to be a Viking for life."

Griffen also emphasized why the deal felt like one of loyalty between himself and the organization.

"It's rewarding because I know the people here love me, and they have my best interest in mind. I just wanted to come back here and finish what I started," Griffen said.

"They took care of me, and they treated me like I'm family," he later added. "I've been here for 10 years, I've played good football for them, and I feel like they handled the situation that I was in perfectly. They took me underneath their wing, they made sure I had everything lined up, and it was a good thing. I just wanted to repay that."

Stepping back into the facility Monday morning for offseason workouts, Griffen welcomed excitement for the game that he's accustomed to feeling but hadn't experienced in a while.

He called his Week 8 comeback last season a "get-through" experience.

"[It was like], 'I need to get through this. I need to be tough,' " he explained. "It was more of a 'get-through'; I really didn't get the chance to enjoy it like I normally do. And now being back here, being back in the building, seeing the coaches' [faces], seeing Rick [Spielman], seeing Rob [Brzezinski], seeing everybody – now it's time that I can enjoy it … but still enjoy life. Finding that balance. And that's what I really found."

While it's a daily process of staying healthy and maintaining consistency in his life outside of football, Griffen emphasized that he's happy and in a good place.

"Am I back to myself? Yeah. I'm back to smiling, joking, that fun guy to be around," Griffen said. "But I truly have an understanding of the things that I have to hold myself accountable with day-in and day-out, and that's what I took upon myself this offseason to handle and … be able to come back with an open mind and ready to play football at a high level again."

Griffen's current mindset stands out to his teammates, including safety Harrison Smith.

The two have been together in the Vikings locker room for the past seven seasons, and Smith spoke to the significance of Griffen rejoining the team for 2019 – on multiple levels.

"He's Everson – he's going to light up any room he walks into," Smith said. "You can tell he's enjoying it, being on the field with the guys. That's reciprocated as well. It's a guy I've been around since I got drafted, so I've learned a lot from him, and I'm just really happy that he's back with us."

Fellow defensive end Danielle Hunter said it "means a lot" to have Griffen back in the position room.

"You can see that he's happy," Hunter said. "He's back to the old Everson that he used to be. He was talking to us in the room today and you could just tell, 'He's back, he's ready to rock and roll with us.' "

Heading into his 10th NFL season, Griffen is now the longest-tenured player on the Vikings roster.

The 31-year-old, who came to Minnesota as a fourth-round draft pick in 2010, reiterated that he hopes to in Purple for the remainder of his career.

"I want to be a Viking for life, and I'm very comfortable right now being here, talking to you guys and understanding where I'm at in life. And it feels good," Griffen said. "I think each and every day this has to be a bigger step. Not just for me, but for the team, to really recognize where we want to go."