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“I’ve got something for him:” Griffen plans to show Zimmer he was more than a “good player”

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Dallas Cowboys defensive end Everson Griffen (97) looks on following a game against the New York Giants in an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Mike Zimmer isn’t one to easily offer praise so the Vikings coach probably thought he was paying Everson Griffen a compliment on Wednesday when he said the defensive end, “was a good player for us.” Griffen had spent his first 10 seasons with the Vikings and turned into a standout pass-rushing end in six years under Zimmer.

But Griffen, who signed in the offseason with Dallas and was traded to the Lions last week, found Zimmer’s words to be hurtful and made that clear while addressing the media on Thursday. The Lions will play the Vikings on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

“I got a little frustrated when I read that comment, what Zimmer said about, ‘Oh, Everson was a good player,'” Griffen said. “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 miss guys. I miss Harrison (Smith), I miss Anthony (Barr), I miss E.K. (Eric Kendricks), I miss Zimmer. So when Zimmer said that about (me), 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.”

Griffen played in seven games for the Cowboys this season and had 2.5 sacks, 20 tackles, six quarterback hits and three tackles for loss after signing a one-year, $6 million deal in August. Griffen, 32, had opted out of his contract with the Vikings in February after recording eight sacks and 24 quarterback hits last season. The pandemic played a big role in Griffen not being signed sooner or getting a longer-term contract. The Vikings did check on Griffen’s availability later in the offseason but those conversations went nowhere.

Griffen did not play in the Lions’ loss to Indianapolis last Sunday because he had to go through the league’s COVID-19 entry protocol, so Sunday will mark his debut with Minnesota’s NFC North rival. Detroit enters the game with a 3-4 record.

A fourth-round pick of the Vikings in 2010 out of Southern Cal, Griffen earned four Pro Bowl berths during his time with Minnesota. He had 74.5 sacks in purple, including a career-high 13 in 2017. Griffen has what football people call a “high motor,” so the fact he was so focused on Zimmer’s comment was somewhat surprising. Simply getting a chance to play his old team would seem like enough motivation for Griffen, but clearly he wanted more and Zimmer provided it with what in no way was a slight.

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