Griffen Playing At High Level On Special Teams

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 12, 2011 – 1:56 pm

Balloting for the Pro Bowl has begun, and for Vikings fans the easy choices are to select DE Jared Allen and RB Adrian Peterson. Allen leads the NFL in sacks with 12.5, and Peterson ranks 1st in the NFL with 9 rushing TDs and 3rd in the NFC with 795 rushing yards.

But there’s another Vikings player who deserves your Pro Bowl vote. Each team has one designated non-kicker special teams player on the ballot. For the Vikings, this player is Everson Griffen. And his performance to date is well-worthy of a special teams nod.

Griffen plays on all 4 core special teams phases, leads the club with 13 special teams tackles, has forced 1 fumble, and has 5 multi-tackle games on special teams. Griffen’s versatility on special teams is perhaps the most impressive part of his game. He runs down on kickoff coverage, but is also a blocker on kickoff return. In fact, Griffen was part of a key block on Percy Harvin’s season-opening kickoff return for a TD against the San Diego Chargers.

Incredibly enough, Griffen also plays gunner on punt coverage. The gunner position is usually designated for a DB or WR; very rarely do you see a player the size of a DE in this spot. But Griffen excels at this position and has been a handful for opposing teams in the punt game.

“I’ve had linebackers before, but I’ve never used a defensive end,” Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer said of using Griffen at gunner. “He’s a unique athlete as you guys know, Everson. And he’s playing at a very high level right now and I hope he keeps playing at that level because to me, I think the more experience he gets doing that, the harder he’ll be to block. He’s going to be very difficult to block, especially for the smaller corners and safeties that are out there.”

Griffen, who has 3.0 sacks on defense for the Vikings this season, is a product of football powerhouse USC. He was a standout DE at a well-known football school, yet he’s completely embraced his role on special teams and has become one of the Vikings most valuable players in each phase of special teams.

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Loadholt, Winfield Probable For Monday Night

Posted by Mike Wobschall on November 12, 2011 – 1:34 pm

The Vikings played their last game prior to the bye fairly banged up. But they’ll enter their first game coming out of the bye in pretty good shape.

Antoine Winfield, who has missed the previous 4 games with a neck injury, was a full participant in practice all week and is listed as probable on the week’s final injury report. RT Phil Loadholt, listed on the injury report with an illness, is also probable. The only starter who will not play because of injury is RG Anthony Herrera (knee).

The Packers come into Monday night’s game in fairly good shape as well. S Morgan Burnett (hand), LB Clay Matthews (knee) and G Josh Sitton (knee) are all listed as probable. Rule out for the game are T Chad Clifton (hamstring), DE Mike Neal (knee) and LB Frank Zombo (hamstring).

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