Last year was a tough one for Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen. Not only did Griffen not have his best year on the field, he also had to deal with some trying mental health issues off it.
In September, Griffen was taken by ambulance to a mental health facility after a series of somewhat bizarre events. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported the following at the time:
Griffen’s wife said her husband “awoke in the middle of the night on Sept. 16 and left the home” and that Griffen does that “at times when he is fighting ‘demons’ in his head.” Griffen came back home on Wednesday and then left until Saturday.
Some of the details provided by Griffen’s wife are extremely bizarre and concerning. From the Star-Tribune:
- Police learned from Vikings player development director Les Pico that Griffen “has been really struggling for the past few weeks,” the police reports read. Pico said Griffen “has been explosive, screaming and yelling” at practice, the reports continued. Pico called Griffen paranoid and prone to repeating himself.
- Griffen’s wife then called and said he was at teammate Trae Waynes‘ home down the road. Griffen was trying to break in, had jumped through bushes and was shirtless. Within minutes, Griffen’s wife notified police that he was in a pickup truck with someone who didn’t know what to do with him. The man had encountered Griffen at a gas station, and delivered him home.
- Police met Griffen outside late Saturday afternoon, and he was making comments about “777” — having to do with angels — and that he went to Waynes’ home because “God made me do it.”
Griffen was not arrested or accused of a crime, but was said to be “increasingly paranoid and feared someone was trying to kill him in the weeks and days” ahead of the incident. Griffen later returned to the team, and months later, he says he is feeling much better about both himself and his life.
“It’s a progression each and every day,” Griffen said, per ESPN.com. “I’m taking it day by day, staying consistent with my life outside of football with those matters and stuff like that, and I’m happy. I’m happy. Am I back to myself? Yeah, I’m back to smiling, joking, that fun guy to be around, but I truly have an understanding of the things that I have to hold myself accountable with day in and day out. That’s what I took upon myself this offseason to handle and make sure I got a good handle on that, to be able to come back with an open mind and ready to play football at a high level again.”
That’s not to say the experience was easy for him to handle.
“To be honest, it was more of a get-through,” Griffen said. “I need to get through this. I need to be tough. … I enjoyed coming here because I’m a competitor, but it was more of a get-through because of how much I had on my plate. So it was more of a get-through. So I didn’t really get the chance to enjoy it as much as I normally do … Now it’s time that I can enjoy it and bring that enjoyment, but still enjoy life. Find that balance. That’s what I really want to find, that balance.”
Griffen noted that having that balance and being happy will also help him on the field.
“When I’m me, when I’m myself, I can play well,” Griffen said. “And last year I wasn’t myself. If I was myself, I wouldn’t have to take a pay cut — if I was myself, if I was playing at the level I know I can play at each and every year. But I wasn’t, and sometimes things happen in your life that you have to get better with and you have to move forward and you have to learn from it. And this was a big learning experience and I dealt with some stuff. But now I’m comfortable, I’m happy, my family’s happy, my kids are happy and that’s what matters the most to me right now. Sitting here and being free and understanding where I can go and what I can do.”
Griffen, when at his best, is one of the premier edge rushers in the NFL. It’s obviously far more important that he be mentally healthy than that he perform in the field, but if the Vikings can have both of those things at once, they’ll surely take it. Here’s to hoping Griffen stays balanced, and gets back to his usual disruptive ways.