Vikings' Everson Griffen practices, takes 'full responsibility' for actions

EAGAN, Minn. -- Everson Griffen is back with the Minnesota Vikings after spending the past five weeks away from football to deal with personal issues related to mental health.

No longer listed on the injury report with "not football related" next to his name, Griffen went through his first practice since the week leading into the Green Bay game. The focus this week, according to coach Mike Zimmer, isn't whether the Pro Bowl defensive end will be available for Minnesota's Sunday Night Football showdown against New Orleans, but rather seeing how Griffen does with his workload in practice before making a decision about his status for the game at the end of the week.

Griffen addressed his return post-practice, the first time he has publicly spoken about a series of alleged incidents that occurred on Sept. 22, causing the Vikings and his family to become concerned over his well-being.

"First off, I want to take full responsibility for my actions that went on in September," Griffen said. "I had a lot of support from my family, the Minnesota Vikings, the doctors, my teammates, the fans and, you know, I want to give my apologies to people I impacted. I'm sorry if I affected them in any type of way. I'm just excited to get back here with my team and get back to the grind of things. It's been hard to be away, but I'm happy to be back. It's a good feeling right now, and I'm taking one day at a time and one thing at a time to get things back on track."

Zimmer said Griffen was in good spirits when the two met on Tuesday -- the first time he had seen the defensive end in over a month -- and noted Griffen had continued to work out while he was away from the team.

Though the nature of Griffen's return is uncharted territory for most NFL teams given he isn't returning from a physical injury, Zimmer discussed the progress Griffen has made taking care of himself, an expected on-going process.

"Everybody in life has probably had to deal with these different types of issues that go on and not necessarily [physical injuries]," Zimmer said. "I know people that I've dealt with in the past, I know people, doctors, all the experts help with these situations. I don't think this is as unique as we're making it out to be. This is an illness, and he's done a good job of helping to get better and continues to try to get better, and he is probably going to have to continue to do that just like we all have to do in life."

Being back around his teammates was a welcomed experience as Griffen tries to get back in his routine. Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said Griffen appeared "bright-eyed and bushy-tailed" upon returning to the facility on Wednesday, while safety Harrison Smith noted the pride the Vikings take in having one of their vocal leaders back in the locker room.

For Griffen, his experiences the past month provided an opportunity to "learn a lot about the man outside of football" and allowed him to realize the issues he's dealing with are bigger than the sport that provides him a living. In due time, Griffen said, he aims to regain his role as the vibrant, energetic team leader he has built his reputation as over nine years in the NFL. Taking steps day-by-day to resume his life as normal started with getting back to work on Wednesday.

"It was awesome, man," Griffen. "Just getting back to life in general; driving my car, doing all the little things. You've got to appreciate the little things in life. I appreciate the little things in life. I'm not taking any day. Every day is a blessing. You got to be grateful. I'm just excited to be back here."

Griffen declined to share specifics on how he spent his time away from the team over the past five weeks and repeatedly said he will share his story when the time is right. Once that happens, the DE said his plan is to use his platform and personal experiences to speak out about the issues he and millions of Americans deal with every day.

For now, Griffen's message to others struggling with mental health is clear.

"If you are, you know, you need to ask for help," Griffen said. "You need to go out there and find a good support team and do the right things to be able to take care of yourself. That's what it's all about, take care of yourself and take care of your actions and doing the right things."