'Great drive': Everson Griffen adds large dose of energy, personality to Lions
There's an indescribable hollowness to watching professional sports being played in front of empty stands. But if there's been one benefit to the awkward silence, at least until they start pumping in artificial crowd noise through the PA system, it's being able to hear the players, unfiltered.
Well, one player in particular, Detroit Lions defensive end Everson Griffen.
Although he's played just two games with Detroit since being acquired in a trade from the Dallas Cowboys at the end of October, Griffen has provided a much-needed boost of personality and energy to the Lions defense.
"Yeah, I wish you could spend some time with this young man," Lions defensive coordinator Cory Undlin said. "He's an incredible person and I think the observation for the energy, seeing that from a distance, I don't know if you can hear him or how you make that observation, but yeah, he's an incredible guy. A welcome addition. He fit right in."
In his Detroit debut, Griffen quickly emerged as a subplot. That's because it occurred in Minnesota, where he spent the first decade of his career, and he generated headlines by taking exception to former coach Mike Zimmer's tepid praise.
Despite promising to remind Zimmer of how great of a player he was, Griffen had a relatively quiet day in the loss, playing limited snaps as he got acclimated to his new surroundings.
Maybe we should rephrase that. While his impact on the box score was quiet, the veteran defensive end could certainly be heard all the way from the press box, more than a hundred yards from the field.
Against Washington last week, Griffen translated that noise into production. He tallied his first sack with the Lions and matched a franchise record with five quarterback hits, including three in the final minutes as the Lions desperately clung to the lead.
That flurry to finish bookended a huge play early in the game, where he blew up a reverse for a 10-yard loss. That jump-started a two-play sequence that knocked Washington out of field-goal range and forced a punt.
"He has a great drive every single play," Lions coach Matt Patricia said. "He plays hard. He plays aggressive. Had some good production and pressure on the quarterback. ... It’s just great to have his energy out there. I think that sometimes when those mid-season transfers happen and you get to a new spot, it does give you a little bit of a different perspective, little bit of new life as a player, from that standpoint. I think he’s just trying to maximize that."
It's mesmerizing watching Griffen's pace the sideline, with his wide eyes complementing facial expressions that range from a scowl to a maniacal smile. And it never really lets up from kickoff to final whistle.
Where does that energy come from? Well, mom of course.
Griffen's mother, Sabrina Scott, passed away eight years ago. She was in town visiting Griffen when her coronary artery spontaneous split. She was 52.
Still, her memory lives on through her son, who continues to be inspired by Scott carrying the family on her back as a single mother.
"She's the reason I'm here today," Griffen said. "She taught me all about hard work, getting good grades and grinding because that's what she did for my family. So I'm going to do that for mine because that's the only thing I know how to do."
Griffen will have another opportunity to do his family proud this Sunday, when the Lions travel to Carolina to play the Panthers.
Carolina is where quarterback Teddy Bridgewater now calls home. Similar to Washington quarterback Alex Smith, who Griffen mercilessly pummeled last Sunday, Bridgewater has also overcome a horrific leg injury that nearly resulted in amputation.
Griffen and Bridgewater were teammates in Minnesota when that injury occurred on the practice field, and the two are good friends. Of course, that relationship doesn't alter Griffen's goals on Sunday.
"Oh man, I love Teddy," Griffen said. "I can't wait to see him. Hopefully I get to hit him a few times, but I love Teddy. You know what I'm saying. I want him to play. I want to hit him a few times, you know? That's what this game is about, to have fun and see a couple of your buddies."