Everson Griffen made his presence felt in Detroit Lions debut, but not for his play

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
| Detroit Free Press

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MINNEAPOLIS — Everson Griffen paced the field before kickoff, pointing and yelling at his old team and old sideline.

Griffen was as fired up for his Detroit Lions debut Sunday as he promised he would be, but the veteran pass rusher made little impact in a 34-20 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

Acquired in a trade from the Dallas Cowboys 12 days earlier, Griffen had three tackles and deflected one pass in limited action. He played behind Romeo Okwara and Nick Williams at defensive end, and spent much of the day in spirited conversation with his former teammates.

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“I talked to Griff all through the game to be honest,” Vikings running back Dalvin Cook said. “We heard Griff the first play he came in on the field. We was in a goal line in the strike zone and he came on the field letting us know he was coming on the field: ‘Here I go! I’m back!'”

Griffen, who played his first 10 seasons for the Vikings, said this week he took offense to seemingly complimentary comments Vikings coach Mike Zimmer made about his return to Minnesota, calling him a “good” player.

Griffen, who made four Pro Bowls and had 74.5 sacks with the Vikings, said he considered Zimmer a “great” coach and wanted to be shown the same respect.

“For him to call me a good player, that kind of hurts my feelings,” Griffen said last week. “On Sunday, I’m really looking forward to playing the Vikings and showing off that I am a great player.”

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The Lions did not make Griffen available in their postgame video conferences Sunday, when the Vikings ran up 487 yards of offense and cruised to an easy win.

That game script kept Griffen from playing a larger role — the Vikings were rarely in obvious pass-rush situations — though his energy still was obvious on the field.

“I love Everson,” Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins said. “The best part was when we all took the field and there was a moment when there was quiet and you hear his voice from the other sideline saying, ‘Some music would be nice!’ Just asking the PA guy to play more music.

“He brought that juice for the Vikings for a decade. I remember in 2018, when I first got here, he was bringing the juice and then when we lost him for part of that year it affects your locker room and the juice we bring because we all kind of look to him for that energy. He was going to be the same guy today.”

Block party

Austin Bryant has struggled with injuries throughout his career, but a day after the Lions activated him from the physically unable to perform list, he delivered one the team’s few highlights, blocking a third quarter punt.

“It felt great (to be back out),” Bryant said. “Like everyone knows, I’ve struggled with injuries since I’ve been here. And to finally get that behind me and complete this last part of that process and have a chance to help the team, that’s something that I wanted to do, is just help the team.”

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Bryant’s blocked punt came late in the third quarter, with the Lions trailing 27-10, when he avoided a cut block by Mike Boone and came in almost untouched off left end.

Romeo Okwara also blocked a punt Sunday, and the Lions now have three blocked punts in their last two games.

“We rep it in practice,” Bryant said. “We know that we got a pretty serious punt return unit. Everybody did their jobs, I did my job, was able to beat my guy and blocked the punt. So, yeah, that’s how that unfolded.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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