EAGAN, MINNESOTA – Last week, the Minnesota Vikings were concerned enough about Everson Griffen’s state of mind that they barred the three-time Pro Bowl defensive end from practice until he had a mental health evaluation.
After a scary series of incidents on Saturday, Griffen remained away from the team on Tuesday and out of action indefinitely. Coach Mike Zimmer said Griffen would not travel with the team to play the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday.
“The only thing we really are concerned about for Everson isn’t anything to do with football. It’s about him getting better,” Zimmer said.
“In the five years that I’ve been here I’ve always loved Everson and the effort that he puts out, the work that he does, the chance to count on him in game time and even in practice. He’s always been a really, really good model for us, and obviously he’s going through some tough times now.”
Griffen was already going to miss the game last Sunday against the Buffalo Bills because of a nagging issue with his knee, but even without the injury he was in no condition to play.
According to police in Minnetrista, the Minneapolis suburb where he lives, Griffen was making comments about people trying to kill him. He was eventually transported by ambulance to an area hospital for his well-being, despite jumping out of the vehicle at one point during a brief stop for crossing deer. He was never arrested or suspected of committing any crimes.
“I just hope for the best for him,” Zimmer said. “In the long run he’s a really good kid.”
According to the police report on Saturday:
Vikings director of security Kim Klawiter requested a welfare check for Griffen’s wife, Tiffany, and their three children after a recent pattern of erratic and disruptive behavior at team headquarters had caused concern. Griffen had arrived for practice that morning and was told he couldn’t participate.
Officer Michael Kokesh met with Griffen’s wife, who told him that Griffen got up in the middle of the night on Sept. 16 and left the house, which he has done before in attempt to deal with “demons in his head.” Griffen was gone for several days during the week, at one point sending his wife a text message that referenced suicide. He’s not on medication, she said, but should be.
Reached by Kokesh on his phone, Griffen said he had no thoughts about harming himself or anyone else.
Kokesh spoke with Vikings executive director of player development Les Pico, who said Griffen had been exhibiting paranoid behavior and irrational and rapid speech but did not believe he was at risk for harming himself or others. Pico met Griffen at a downtown Minneapolis hotel, where he had also created a disturbance in the lobby and threatened violence.
Griffen also showed up shirtless outside the house of teammate Trae Waynes, who lives on the same street. A little later, Griffen left his vehicle at a gas station and rode home with a man who said he didn’t know Griffen and was shaking when he met officers waiting outside Griffen’s house.
After Griffen agreed to the hospital visit, officers summoned by paramedics after the stop for the deer found him walking on the side of a county road. Griffen told them he was afraid “someone was going to shoot him.” The officers convinced him to return to the ambulance and lie down on a stretcher inside.
Asked if he believed the Vikings did enough to ensure Griffen received a psychiatric evaluation, Zimmer said that wasn’t his area of expertise. He did, however, praise the organization’s approach to providing off-the-field support for any life situation.
“Our owners do an unbelievable job of giving these players all the resources that they need. If we have to bring in experts from some other place or he has to go see other people, our owners are outstanding with that,” Zimmer said.
“So we’re going to do everything possible that we can, not only for Everson, but to help everybody on our team and, quite honestly, with their families as well.”
Stephen Weatherly has taken the 30-year-old Griffen’s place in the starting lineup. Their cubicles are next to each other in the locker room.
“It’s tough. I would much rather have him here, not only as a teammate but as someone that I lean on personally and stuff like that,” Weatherly said. “But we’re going to continue to play hard, and we’re going to do it for him.”