Griffen fell to the fourth round in the draft out of USC after his junior year, and Vikings director of college scouting Scott Studwell said described Griffen that day as a guy who "enjoyed the college life a little bit" when acknowledging the discipline concerns that caused him to slip down the board.
He played sparingly that first season, and shortly after it was over he was arrested for an alleged assault on a police officer in Los Angeles during a scuffle that ensued from a traffic stop, though a felony charge was not pursued by authorities. In 2011, Griffen's playing time increased as he became the primary backup to Allen and Robison after the departure of Ray Edwards. But he was still prone to untimely and costly penalties, and his main value remained on special teams.
Last year, while carrying the grief of the sudden death of his mother, Griffen collected nine of his 12 career sacks, including one in the playoff game at Green Bay. To get there, Vikings used the three sacks he had against the Packers the week before in that must-win regular season finale. Griffen had 28 quarterback hurries over those 17 games, and he also produced his first career interception and touchdown.
"He has been as dialed in as I've seen him right now and really was for the last half of last year," defensive line coach Brendan Daly said.
Said Robison: "I think we've all tried to help him. We've seen that he's going to be a great player in this league for years to come, so we want to help him come along. The better he is, the better we are as a group."
Last summer, the Vikings toyed with using Griffen at outside linebacker, intrigued by the athleticism in his 6-foot-3, 275-pound frame. The experiment quickly ended when both sides determined there wasn't a fit.