Griffen excited, but still has to deliver

MINNEAPOLIS -- When Everson Griffen's five-year, $42.5 million deal with the Minnesota Vikings got done early on Sunday morning, the defensive end was playing at a charity golf tournament hosted by his agency, which also represents Matt Cassel, Kyle Rudolph, Harrison Smith, John Sullivan and a number of other Vikings.

How'd he play? "Not that good. It was not good at all," he said Tuesday. "I drove the ball good a couple of times, but I was just high on life, absorbing all of this in."

Griffen's effervescent response to his new contract was still streaking through the airwaves Tuesday, when he and Cassel talked about their new deals in a 30-minute conference call with reporters. Griffen had the first half of that session, during which he referenced new coach Mike Zimmer's "mastermind skills," his own "freakish athletic ability," and asked, "When I get the opportunity to become a master of my craft at one position, is there a ceiling in here?"

He closed by inviting reporters to his Wednesday morning workout, thanking Vikings ownership for the new contract, telling fellow USC product Cassel he loved him and yelling, "Minnesota Vikings ... STAND UP!" before he left the call.

The 26-year-old is excited about his new contract, and he has every right to be. The Vikings bet a handsome sum of money on Griffen's talent and potential, moreso than on his production to this point, and made him the highest-paid member of their defensive line. They'll put him with Zimmer, the self-professed "fixer" who's made a career out of coaxing results out of mercurial players, and they might make him the successor to Jared Allen at the right end spot.

But Griffen will ultimately be judged on his production, and he seemed to know that. He talked about being a better man off the field, a better leader on it, and putting in more work to learn the finer points of his role. It might help if the Vikings define a job for Griffen, who's so far shown the versatility to play in a number of different spots, but maybe not the discipline to deliver major results without a narrower focus.

Griffen said Tuesday he'll stay on the defensive line -- we'd wondered here if the Vikings would toy with him at linebacker -- and while he said the team could still move him around, he added the team is "going to use me." Griffen played more than 60 percent of the Vikings' defensive snaps last year but evidently felt he didn't have a firm identity in the defense.

"These guys here, they know how to use their players," he said. "I feel that just talking to the coaches that I sat down with a little bit, they know how to use their players, they know how to put you in the right situation at the right time to make the big play."

Griffen will be playing in a defense that might not allow him to post huge sack totals, and his contributions will be measured more on how he holds up against blockers and executes his assignments than raw statistics. But in any case, the Vikings' deal with Griffen is more a speculation on future production than a reward for past performance at this point. It's up to him to use all of that energy as a catalyst for real results.

"With more responsibility, that means you've got to work harder, you've got to be disciplined, and the biggest thing is is you've got to listen," Griffen said. "This whole game is built on listening. That's why the coaches are here. These coaches are here to coach you and you are here to listen. There should be no ifs, ands, or buts about it. They are going to tell you what to do and you do it. I'm here to listen, I'm here to take this next step and be a leader. Excited, just excited and over thankful. Just thank you, thank you, thank you."