Lions’ Griffen hurt by Zimmer’s ‘good’ comment

    Covered the 49ers, Raiders and Warriors for the San Jose Mercury News. She joined ESPN in 2017.

EAGAN, Minn. — Good is the enemy of great in Everson Griffen’s world.

The newly acquired defensive end for the Detroit Lions took exception to his former coach Mike Zimmer calling him a “good player” ahead of the Minnesota Vikings’ Week 9 showdown with their NFC North opponent.

Asked about Griffen’s return to Minnesota after he spent 10 seasons with the Vikings, Zimmer said, “Everson was a good player for us. I wish him well, just not this week.”

The Pro Bowl defensive end appeared to take Zimmer’s comment as a slight for not noting the contributions he made for the Vikings throughout their six seasons together (2014-19).

“This is the best I’ve felt in a long time, and I got a little frustrated when I read that comment what Zimmer said, ‘Oh, Everson was a good player,'” Griffen said. “Like, Coach Zimmer just wasn’t a good coach, he was a great coach to me, so for him to call me a good player, that kind of hurts my feelings.

“On Sunday I’m really looking forward to playing the Vikings and showing them that I am a great player. I’m excited, I’m ready to execute, my mental health is strong, my physical health is strong, my mind is strong, and I’m ready to go out there and dominate. I’m ready to create, adapt and go out there and win.”

Griffen was named to the Pro Bowl during four seasons in Minnesota (2015-17 and 2019) and ranks fourth in franchise history in sacks with 74.5. The 32-year-old edge rusher opted out of his contract with the Vikings after the 2019 season and became a free agent in March. While the coronavirus pandemic limited Griffen’s activity in free agency, the defensive end eventually signed with the Dallas Cowboys in August where he spent the first seven weeks of the season before being traded to Detroit for a conditional sixth-round draft pick in 2021.

Griffen later noted on Twitter that he expected more from Zimmer after he “gave everything for that team.”

“I miss guys,” he said. “I miss Harrison (Smith), I miss Anthony (Barr), I miss E.K. (Eric Kendricks), I miss Zimmer. So when Zimmer said that about that — I’m a good player — all right, we’re going to see who’s a good player on Sunday. That’s what I’ve got for him.”

Throughout his nearly 10-minute Zoom call with reporters Thursday, Griffen kept referencing the “good player” comment, often unprompted. The Vikings tried to get the defensive end to return this offseason on a reduced salary but lost out in the sweepstakes to Dallas.

“They’re going to put some respect on my name,” Griffen said. “He going to put respect on my name, that’s all I’m saying, like he just wasn’t a good coach to me, he was a great coach. He helped me improve, helped me grow. I don’t ever talk bad about people, so for him to call me a good player, all right, I got something for him on Sunday.”

Griffen arrives in Detroit at a time when the Lions are thin at defensive end. When asked about his thoughts on the Lions’ scheme, Griffen drew several comparisons to the defense he played in from 2010 to 2019.

“How detail-oriented they are here, it reminds me of coach Zimmer, his great defense that we had,” Griffen said. “They’re very detail-oriented here, they’re going to put in the time, they’re detail-oriented, they want to win, they’re going to have all the extra tendencies for you, they’re going to make sure you’re on point, they’re going to overcoach like every coach does.

“But you’ve got to enjoy the overcoaching, they just want to get you better. But, yeah, they’re doing everything right here. I love the system, I love the coaches, I love the players. I’m excited to be here. It’s going to be fun on Sunday. I’m going to come out and be a great player, and I’m going to come out and dominate and do that. Because I’m just a good player? Alright.”

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