Former Vikings defensive end and current NFL free agent Everson Griffen has opened up about his 2018 mental health struggles, telling NFL Network's Tom Pelissero that he "feels the best he's ever felt" as he awaits a call to find his new team.
In the story, which is worth reading in full, Griffen says he spent the last three months of the 2018 season living in a sober house as part of his recovery process. When he first entered treatment after multiple mental health incidents, Griffen wasn't allowed to have a cell phone or drive a car. He re-joined the Vikings while living in the sober house, but didn't give out details to his teammates or the public.
"Nobody knew that I was living in a sober house," Griffen told me by phone Thursday. "I lived in the sober house for three months, from October to the end of the (2018) season. I was living like I was in college. Had a roommate, had a little bit of clothes. I was going to my meetings. I did the whole nine. That was a part of my recovery. Just to reset. I wanted to reset.
Griffen's struggles in 2018 were widely publicized. There were verbal outbursts, multiple incidents with police – including one after he showed up, shirtless and unprompted, to teammate Trae Waynes' house – and an escape from an ambulance. Eventually, he was checked into a hospital for treatment, and didn't face any criminal charges.
While in treatment, he received extensive evaluation and the conclusion was made that he didn't have serious mental-health issues or a chemical dependency. According to Griffen's agent, Brian Murphy, doctors found that his behavior "resulted from significant unresolved emotional distress, emotional incongruence and a lack of healthy coping skills."
"In short, his unprocessed emotions from a lifetime of really unfortunate and painful experiences – including his mother's death in October 2012 (from spontaneous coronary artery dissection while visiting Griffen in Minnesota) – finally boiled over the top. As a result, Everson 'coped' by relationally detaching and acting out in ways that were very uncharacteristic of his NFL career. While that experience cost him five weeks of the NFL season, it has also changed his life forever in very positive ways."
Griffen looked all the way back to his childhood to discover where his problems began. He called the events of 2018 a "big eye-opener on the things that needed to be resolved in my life," said he speaks with therapists and psychologists on a daily basis, and realized he needed to turn his life around for his wife and three young children. Griffen said he has fully recovered.
"I'm happy that 2018 happened, because I wouldn't be sitting here today, being able to tell my story and showing teams that I am strong, I am healthy and there's nothing really that you have to worry about, because I'm doing all the right things. There's nothing I'm doing behind the scenes that they should be worried about. I'm doing everything possible to make sure that 2018 doesn't happen again. And it will not happen."
Now, Griffen is simply biding his time and waiting to find out where he'll be playing next season. After a decade with the Vikings, the 32-year-old is one of the top pass-rushers on the market, but his process has been affected by the ongoing coronavirus situation. After opting out of his contract, Griffen said he's not in a rush to sign and wants to find the perfect fit. He also didn't rule out the possibility of a return to Minnesota, telling Pelissero "never say never."
"I'm going to do anything possible in my body to make sure I'm putting myself and this team in the position to win," Griffen said. "And at the end of the day, I'm going to make sure I take care of myself, too. Because that's the most important part, is taking care of myself, and that's the new Everson. I'm finally taking care of myself, not just in a physical way, in a mental way, in a healthy way and really taking ownership in it and growing from that and being able to identify my flaws and my failures. I feel the best I ever felt.
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