After the Vikings-Eagles game Sunday, in which Minnesota's defense stepped up and played well against the Super Bowl LII champions, players in the Vikings locker room were focused on their teammate.
Everson Griffen is currently away from the team with an uncertain timetable for return. While from a football standpoint one would consider it a negative to be without a Pro Bowl defensive end, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer and others in the building have emphasized a different side of it.
"The only thing we're really concerned about for Everson isn't really anything to do with football," Zimmer said on Sept. 25. "It's about him getting better."
Jenny Vrentas of The Monday Morning Quarterback recently posted an article about Griffen what it means that he's taking time to work through some tough things. She wrote:
In the business of professional sports, the tendency is to measure Griffen's absence in games missed — three, and counting — for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. But take a step back and consider the human impact; the meaning of a star athlete taking time away to address his mental health and the potential role it could play in reclassifying mental health as simply part of one's overall health, breaking down barriers for those in his line of work or others to seek the help they need.
Vrentas quoted Stephen Weatherly, who has been starting in place of Griffen at defensive end.
Weatherly, whose locker is next to Griffen's at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center, reminded that professional athletes are not superheroes and are not exempt from the issues of life.
"We all go through life the same way as everyone else. Everyone is impacted by, or has a chance to be impacted by, something like this," Weatherly told Vrentas. "It does let people know it is OK, and you are not alone in something like this. If someone like Pro Bowl player Everson Griffen has challenges like this, and is able to admit that and go get the proper help, then anyone can. Maybe it inspires someone else. That may be the silver lining in the cloud."
Public figures being open about seeking treatment and working through mental health challenges can have a positive influence on others.
Mental health treatment is often not viewed in the same way as treating a knee or shoulder injury.
Defensive tackle Linval Joseph, who returned a fumble recovery 64 yards for a touchdown at Philadelphia, spoke in support of Griffen being away to focus on himself.
"Everson is my brother. I don't know everything that is going on, but at the same time, I'm just glad he's getting help," Joseph told Vrentas. "He's not the only person — I know that for a fact. I'm just glad we are taking the approach we are taking, so if something ever happens with anybody else, maybe they can do the same thing."
Krammer: Vikings offense enabling them to 'outlast O-line woes'
Cousins has played well under pressure through his first five games in Purple.
And he's getting pressured a lot.
Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune referenced analytics site Pro Football Focus, which said that Cousins has "felt heat on more than 42 percent of his throws," a stat that is behind only Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson at this point in the season.
But Krammer said that aspects of Minnesota's offense is enabling it to "outlast" potential issues on the offensive line. He wrote:
The Vikings offense has a lot going for itself. Quarterback Kirk Cousins is playing the best football of his career. Receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs are torching defensive backs put in their paths. They've got a stable of running backs that, when healthy, can break tackles to make plays.
And [Offensive Coordinator] John DeFilippo showed he can, again, orchestrate a game plan that produces on the road against some of the NFL's best defensive lines. The results — 821 combined yards in back-to-back weeks at the Rams and Eagles — are evidence enough.
Krammer continued that Cousins is "overcoming the biggest question mark he faced when coming to Minnesota – playing under pressure." He said that Cousins "impressed again in Philadelphia" when he completed 81 percent of his passes while getting hit on 10 of 37 throws.
It's not all on the line; tight ends and running backs also surrender hurries, hits and sacks. Against the Bills, Cousins held onto the ball too long at times. But no matter the culprit, sustainability is the question. Cousins has proven to be durable entering his 55th consecutive NFL start on Sunday against the Cardinals.