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Griffen, Rudolph Among Vikings Excited to Welcome Free-Agent Teammates

EAGAN, Minn. –Everson Griffen has a new friend.

Griffen, entering his ninth season in Purple, said it was "music to his ears" when the Vikings signed defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson in free agency.

"I love seeing that, because the fastest way to the quarterback is up the middle," said Griffen, who had a career-high 13 sacks in 2017. "If he's getting pressure up the middle, push up the middle, that means we can use more speed, we're not getting as many chips. He's dominant."

The two have bonded already according to Griffen, who said he and Richardson "talk all day; we kid around."

Griffen referenced Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer's success with interior defensive linemen even before taking the helm in Minnesota. He specifically highlighted Cincinnati's Geno Atkins, who was a two-time Pro Bowler and received All-Pro honors in four seasons under Zimmer.

"[Atkins] was dominant. And in this defense, you need a dominant 3-technique," Griffen said. "You watch any defense that Coach Zimmer coached, and they had a dominant 3-technique, and look what they did."

Besides Richardson's on-field talents, Griffen said the 27-year-old is eager to learn all he can. Although he already has five NFL seasons under his belt, Richardson is receptive to what the Vikings coaching staff can further teach him.

"He wants to learn how to be great," Griffen said. "We come out each and every day, and when we hit the practice field, [we strive to] be dominant, to learn, to get your body to do all the right things – and I think he's buying into that concept from start to finish."

And it isn't only Richardson whom Griffen is excited about. The defensive end told media members on Tuesday that he liked the aggressive approach taken by General Manager Rick Spielman and the Vikings in free agency.

After game-planning for Kirk Cousins the past two seasons, Griffen is happy to now have the quarterback on his team. Griffen pointed out Cousins' three consecutive seasons with 4,000-plus passing yards and said he's looking forward to seeing him perform with the help of Minnesota's offensive weapons, including Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph and Dalvin Cook.

Griffen and Rudolph emphasized to reporters the leadership qualities that Cousins has already demonstrated for his new teammates.

"Obviously he's a phenomenal football player, but he's an even better person, and he's a great leader," Rudolph said. "You can just see that – he kind of naturally has that aura about him. He's energetic, he's excited about coming to work every day, and that's what you expect out of your quarterback."

When asked if it's difficult for a free agent to join a new team and seamlessly step into a leadership role, Rudolph said he believes it just comes naturally for Cousins.

"I don't want to speak for Kirk, but he's been in this league for six years. He knows himself, he knows what he brings to the table, so he has just been himself to this point," Rudolph said. "When you're a great football player and you bring energy and excitement to work every single day, you're going to become a leader. Guys are naturally going to want to follow you."

Griffen appreciates the way that Cousins is confident in asserting himself and speaking up to the team despite being one of the new guys on campus.

"You need a quarterback who's going to be vocal, who speaks up, who's a leader, and he's going to make the necessary calls," Griffen said. "He can throw the ball, he can make any throw, and he's also mobile. He's sneaky fast. Having those attributes is just the icing on the cake. I think it's great to have him here."

The NFL Draft, which will kick off in Dallas at 7 p.m. (CT) Thursday, will add more names to the Vikings roster. And after free agency, current players are already feeling pretty positive about the team's moves thus far.

"You always try to improve, always try to get your team as complete as you can. I feel like the moves were great," Xavier Rhodes said. "[We're] Trying to get the chemistry going. We've been together for so long, but we have new guys. We're trying to get new guys in the mix, trying to help them understand how everything goes here in Minnesota.

"Whoever they bring in, I'm going to believe they're going to take us [to another level]," Rhodes said. "As a team, we have to make them confident here so we can go as far as we want to get."

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