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Vikings Embrace Everson Griffen the Person as he Returns to Team

EAGAN, Minn. – Everson Griffen is back with the Vikings.

And while the Vikings defensive end will participate in football activities this week, it remains up in the air if he will play Sunday against New Orleans.

Not that Griffen's playing status matters, the Vikings said. Instead, the emphasis is on his well-being after Griffen was away from the team for a month to work on his personal health.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer made it clear in his Wednesday morning press conference that there should not be a stigma surrounding mental health or being open about it.

"I don't want to get into too much, but I bet you there are people in this room who have had to deal with these kinds of issues as well," Zimmer said. "Everybody in life has probably had to deal with some kind of these different types of issues that go on and aren't necessarily hamstrings. I know people that I have dealt with in the past [have experiences]. I know people, the doctors, the medical experts, they all help with those situations.

"I don't think this is as unique as what we are making it out to be. This is an illness, and he's done a good job of helping to get better and continues to try to get better," Zimmer added. "He's probably going to have to continue to do that. Just like we all have to do in life. We all have to try to improve and work on the things we're working on and getting better at."

Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins was among those who had a smile on his face when Griffen returned to Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center on Wednesday morning.

"It's outstanding to see him back here. I think our focus is on Everson the person," Cousins said. "Obviously he's a great football player, but having Everson the person back in the locker room is a great thing to see."

Added Vikings safety Harrison Smith: "It's obviously great – not only in the locker room but also on the field. Just happy he's back, and it's good. Everything we're doing is in the best interest of him. He's back now, and we're excited to have him back as a friend of his, as a teammate for a long time. Not only what he does on the field but just his presence around here and having a friend back, having a teammate back."

Vikings defensive end Stephen Weatherly is locker mates with Griffen at the team facility. Weatherly, who has started five games in Griffen's absence, said the entire team received a boost Wednesday with Griffen in the building.

"To have him back is a big deal," Weatherly said. "Obviously we know about the statistics, he's a hell of a player and has proven himself year-in and year-out.

"But also, most people don't know about the emotional capacity in which he leads the team with," Weatherly said. "He brings energy and a fire, and I'm excited to have him back."

Weatherly noted that he and Griffen had a lively chat when they caught up in Minnesota's locker room.

"We got right back in the groove of things, and he was asking me how I've been doing. That's a big deal for him … him asking me every day before he left," Weatherly said. "It was like clockwork … we came in after meetings and right before walkthrough, and he was like, 'So what's new with you man?'

"It was like he never skipped a beat, and that means a lot," Weatherly added. "We exchanged a couple words and went out on the field and got to it. It means a lot."

Griffen, who has been selected to three straight Pro Bowls, has 62 career sacks.

"We're coming off a win, we've got Griff' back … everything is up right now," said Vikings defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. "We can't complain about nothing, and we're happy he's back."