EAGAN, Minn. -- Remorseful about the circumstances that led to his absence, Everson Griffen sported his usual smile and was excited about returning to the Minnesota Vikings for the first time since Week 2 as he works through a mental-health issue.
"It was the right thing for me, completely," Griffen said about the time away.
He later added: "I feel like everything happens for a reason and I needed this. I needed to figure out myself. It was a good thing.”
Griffen has been away from the team since Sept. 22 when he had a series of alarming incidents. Griffen reportedly had threatened staff at a local hotel where he was staying before leaving the scene. According to a police report, Griffen later acted erratically with his wife and had entered the home of teammate Trae Waynes uninvited.
The police report said Griffen was seen in the bushes near Waynes’ home without a shirt and was eventually found by police at his home where he “made several comments about people trying to kill him, referenced 777 and God several times," according to the police report.
He was transported to a local hospital but not before he had jumped out of an ambulance fearing someone was trying to hurt him. Police talked Griffen back into the ambulance and escorted the Vikings’ defensive end to the hospital.
“First off, I want to take full responsibility for my actions that went on in September,” Griffen said in a press conference at the team facilities on Wednesday. “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.”
Griffen said he’s working on a plan for improvement.
“We’ve got a plan in place and we’re going to execute the plan day in and day out,” Griffen said. “We’re going to stay on top of it and that’s our goal. This is bigger than football. It’s part of the plan. I’m excited to be back.”
Griffen, a three-time Pro Bowl defensive end, has missed five games while he was receiving treatment. He declined to discuss specifics of what happened or what his recovery has been like but said he would tell his story at a later time.
“You know, I learned a lot about the man outside of football,” Griffen said. “I had a lot of time to reflect on my life and where I want to go and the decisions I made, and I just want to get better with some of my decisions that I made and just improve on them.”
Teammates were excited to welcome Griffen back and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson looked "bright eyed and bushy tailed” when he returned.
“Morale’s up,” Richardson said about Griffen’s return. “Camaraderie off a win. Got Griff back. Everything’s up right now. I can’t complain about nothing. I’m happy he’s back.”
Griffen was at the team facilities on Tuesday and met with coach Mike Zimmer.
“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,” Zimmer said. “We all have to try and improve on the things we’re working on and trying to get better at.”
There was no timeline on his return, but Griffen said the time away was important.
“It was a time and place where I needed this in my life and I’m happy it was the right time,” Griffen said. “It was the perfect time for me.”
Griffen said he’s been working about but still needs to work to be in position to play. Zimmer wouldn’t say if Griffen might play on Sunday against New Orleans and the team just wants to see how Griffen progresses throughout the week.
Griffen hopes to one day speak about what he went through so that he can help others. He did offer one bit of advice in his few minutes with the media on Wednesday.
“You’ve got to put your pride aside,” Griffen said. “Sometimes you’ve just got to put your pride aside and know when enough is enough. Sometimes you’ve got to take it upon yourself and know when enough is enough and when you can’t handle it. When life is too much, you can’t find that balance. That’s all I try to do is find that balance and work towards my health and wellness. And not just football. It’s bigger than football. It’s my life, my family, my kids.”
Brian can be found on Twitter at @MNBrianHall. See all of the Vikings’ coverage at footballmaven.io/vikings