MINNEAPOLIS - Everson Griffen looked like his old self Monday afternoon as he stepped on the practice field at TCO Performance Center.
The purple jersey wasn’t the same number, but the smiles and embraces with teammates made it feel like he was home again. After a year away from Minnesota, splitting the 2020 season between the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions, the Vikings signed Griffen on Monday for the 2021 season.
"Honestly I wanted to be here, I really wanted to be here. I feel like this is the best fit for me, throughout the whole league. I’m excited to be back and just happy that things worked out the way they did," Griffen told reporters on Monday. "They welcomed me back with open arms."
So why did he leave in the first place? He thought he could make more money elsewhere, and make a bigger impact on a defensive line. After 74.5 sacks in his first 10 seasons in Minnesota, Griffen had a combined six sacks between the Cowboys and Lions last season.
That number would’ve led the Vikings defense. He learned the support system he has in Minnesota, between family, teammates and coaches, was more important than any game check.
"I left because I thought the grass was greener on the other side to be honest, and it wasn’t. I didn’t get the love that I got here with the fans, with the coaches, with the players," Griffen said. "I should’ve stayed last year, to be honest."
The Vikings brought in Griffen last Wednesday for a workout before he had a long conversation with the front office. He’s spent his down time coaching his 8-year-old son’s football team, enjoying his boat and being a husband and father of three kids.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Monday he’ll start out in a situation role, with the starting defensive end job opposite Danielle Hunter currently a competition between D.J. Wonnum and Stephen Weatherly. Zimmer said they wouldn’t have signed Griffen if they didn’t think he could help.
"We talked to him for a quite a while the other day and it seems like he’s in a good place. Hopefully he continues to do that and if he does, he can help us," Zimmer said.
His return to the Vikings isn’t all roses. Griffen went public on social media last year with criticism of quarterback Kirk Cousins. He also implied Zimmer didn’t want Cousins before team signed him in 2018. Griffen soon after apologized and deleted his Twitter posts.
Before the Vikings’ first game against the Lions last season, Zimmer called Griffen "a good player," and Griffen took offense to the comment.
Griffen also had to step away for give games during the 2018 to address mental health concerns after an incident at a downtown Minneapolis hotel. He said Monday there will be conversations to make amends before Week 1.
"I haven’t really talked to him (Cousins) yet, but I’m going to get around to doing that. Apologize to him and apologize to Coach Zim and Rick about what I said. I take full ownership in that, but I’ve got to talk to Kirk and apologize to him about that," Griffen said.
Griffen is now a piece of a vaunted defensive line that includes Hunter, Dalvin Tomlinson, Michael Pierce, Sheldon Richardson, Wonnum and Weatherly. It should be much improved from a group that got just 23 sacks in 16 games last year.
Griffen feels back at home, and the Vikings wanted to make sure he was in a good place mentally before bringing him back.
"That my head was in it, that I’m in a good place. That’s first and foremost," Griffen said. "I think football always takes care of itself, and just know my role. Wherever they want me, I can do it."