EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — A little more than two years ago, Michael Griffin congratulated Jerry Gray on being hired in Minnesota.
A little more than a month ago, Gray reached out to check on the player he coached for three seasons (2011-13) in Tennessee.
On Monday, the Vikings defensive backs coach welcomed the safety to Winter Park and the Vikings family.
Griffin, a first-round pick by Tennessee out of Texas in 2007, was released by the Titans in February. It was a tough moment for a player who missed just three games in nine seasons.
"Coach Gray called and asked if I was considering retiring after being in Tennessee for long," Griffin said. "I told him, 'No,' and from there, he's kept in touch with me. I know they reached out to my guys during the combine and continued to express interest. That's when everything kicked off on the new league year, they offered and right then and there, I just felt like it was the best place on paper, watching them on film and last season, it was a great opportunity to join a great football team and get on the other side of things."
While Griffin was consistent, averaging 101.3 tackles over the course of his nine seasons, he encountered multiple changes in Tennessee. Since Griffin was selected 19th overall, the Titans are on their third controlling owner, third general manager, fourth head coach and fifth defensive coordinator.
He went from playing alongside veteran Chris Hope in his first four seasons to lining up with four safeties since (Jordan Babineaux, Bernard Pollard, George Wilson and Da'Norris Searcy). Griffin also experienced a pair of playoff seasons in his first two in the pros and the lows of the team totaling five wins in the past two seasons.
Griffin, however, has shown versatility and been utilized in a multitude of ways, from playing deep centerfield to scrapping in the box. He has 25 career interceptions, 21 tackles for loss, 7.0 sacks and 10 quarterback pressures.
The communication between Gray and Griffin was allowed before the start of free agency because Griffin was released. It also was the continuation of a relationship that began during Gray's time with Washington. Griffin told Twin Cities media members that he'd exchange messages with Gray and other former coaches on Father's Day, Christmas and other times of year to stay connected.
"I knew he played for the University of Texas and all the accolades he achieved," Griffin said. "When he got the defensive coordinator job, we had a great time in Tennessee, did a lot of good things and whatnot. When he got released, we stayed in contact.
"I stayed in a lot of close contact with a lot of guys because you build a lot of friendships over the course of your career," Griffin continued. "When you transition from playing on the football field to the real world, you never know what type of hands and advice people can give you."
Griffin also has kept in touch with Vikings defensive end Brian Robison. They teamed to help the Longhorns win the 2005 NCAA national title and faced Adrian Peterson three times in college in the Red River Rivalry between Texas and Oklahoma.
"I'm excited to be on his team this time, as opposed to going against him because of the caliber of player he is," Griffin said.
He's also excited because of what he's seen of the Vikings and Head Coach Mike Zimmer from afar. He mentioned noticing the way Zimmer worked with safety Reggie Nelson in Cincinnati and cornerback Terence Newman with the Cowboys, Bengals and last season with the Vikings.
"I watched the playoff game last year," Griffin said. "It was a game they should have won. I watched them throughout the whole year. It came down to the wire versus the Denver Broncos. It's a good football team."
Griffin touted the players he'll join in the secondary, as well as the play of the Vikings front seven. He mentioned watching some film of Kendricks on Monday and following the quick progression that the 2015 second-round pick and 2014 first-round selection Anthony Barr have made at their linebacker positions. He said he's seen good things from safeties Harrison Smith and Andrew Sendejo.
Griffin added to Vikings.com's Mike Wobschall: "You look at a guy like Harrison Smith. I wouldn't say an up-and-coming safety. I would say he's established himself as one of the top safeties in the league."
View images of new Vikings S Michael Griffin from his days as a Titan.
The Vikings re-signed Sendejo to a multiyear contract this offseason after he started all 13 regular season games he played in 2015 and the Wild Card game against Seattle.
Griffin said he isn't assuming anything at this point and is committed to adding competition and depth to the position.
"My perspective is to come in and try to help this team win ball games, and whoever is in the back end, it's going to take all of us," Griffin said. "I've been a very humble player. My thing is you're only as good as your weakest link, and that means backups and starters have to be on the same page because you never know when an injury may come and the next man has to step up.
"There's nothing set in stone. My perspective is to come in and compete," Griffin continued. "It is the NFL, and I understand it's not for long. I've been blessed to play for nine years, but at the same time, I've got to compete every which way I possibly can to make this team better and try to help this team win games."