The Minnesota Vikings lost to the Los Angeles Rams 31-38 on Thursday night, dropping to a 1-2-1 record at the one-quarter mark of the season.
Who cares? (Aside from this man.) The Vikings are dealing with a much more significant issue from a personnel (and personal) standpoint: the ongoing mental health recovery of Everson Griffen, who last weekend was involved in a frightening incident in a downtown Minneapolis hotel.
According to police and witnesses, Griffen behaved erratically and angrily, threatening to shoot a hotel employee if he was not allowed into a room in the Hotel Ivy. Police arrived, spoke with Griffen -- whom they determined did not have a gun, or anyway had not brandished one -- and released him without arrest.
That was Saturday afternoon; the following day, Griffen was not on the sidelines during Minnesota's embarrassing loss to the Buffalo Bills, and was left back from the team's quick-turnaround trip to Los Angeles.
And here is how Mike Zimmer, a professional football coach under immense pressure to get his team turned around, spoke about missing one of the best defensive players not only on his team, but in the whole league:
“The only thing I’m really concerned about for Everson isn’t anything to do with football. It’s about him getting better. In the five years that I’ve been here, I’ve always loved Everson, the effort that he puts out, the work that he does, [we can] count on him in game time and even in practice. He’s always been a really, really good model for us, and obviously he’s going through some tough times now.”
Pretty much perfect, as responses to an employee's mental health crisis go. If Minnesota's disappointing season continues, and fans call for Zimmer to be fired, try to keep in mind how he's handling the Everson Griffen situation: like an adult, who cares about someone getting better.
And that might be happening now, though slowly, and in private. Griffen broke his silence Thursday night with an Instagram post apologizing for his continued absence from the team, and referring to "resolving personal issues with which I have been dealing for a long time." He doesn't go into detail, but says he plans to speak more candidly and "share my story with everyone" once he's had more time to work through it.
Following the lead of his coach and team, Griffen's Instagram fans have been overwhelmingly supportive: "You got this bud!" one wrote. "Do what you need, we got your back."
The post already has 19,000 likes -- a remarkable number, one that means more than a third of Griffen's followers offered support within a dozen hours of his statement.
It's not enough. Go give the guy a like or leave a supportive comment. Vikings fans tend to explode with cheers when Griffen slips an offensive lineman and grabs a quarterback, and it's clear Griffen wants them on his side. This morning? This morning he needs them.