Griffen, Allen see shrinking targets for QBs

Everson Griffen (Tom Dahlin/Viking Update)

Defensive linemen Jared Allen and Everson Griffen know that the target area for a quarterback hit isn't very large. Griffen maintains he didn't do anything wrong during a hit on Jay Cutler, but he's not going to let a potential fine alter his aggressiveness.

As Everson Griffen entered the locker room Thursday, you couldn't help but notice that he craned his neck toward his locker in search of mail he doesn't want – the dreaded FedEx letter from the NFL office in New York. Almost from the moment the slow motion replays were shown of Griffen's shot to Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler that snapped his head violently backward, speculation has been that the letter from the league is on its way to Winter Park.

But, as of noon Thursday, anyway, so far so good.

"I haven't heard anything from the league yet, so that's a good thing," Griffen said. "Hopefully I won't because I still don't think I did anything wrong."

The NFL has gone to great lengths to protect players in light of the realities that have been made clear about the long-term impact of concussions, as well as a rash of suicides of former players blamed on the long-term pain related to multiple concussions. As a result, the NFL has reduced the window in which a quarterback can get hit to a very small circle. You can't go low at quarterbacks' legs. You can't touch his head. It has reduced the area in which a defensive player can hit a quarterback. For players like Griffen and Jared Allen who make their living tackling quarterbacks, it would appear the hitting zone has been reduced to the size of a bulls-eye in a quarterback's chest or back.

"You can't target their head and you have to use precaution when they're going down," Allen said. "It's a thin line. You don't want guys to back off and not play hard because there are some instances where guys don't make plays because of the fact they're letting go. Obviously, the window of where you can hit people is shrinking. You've just got to try to adjust."

Griffen hopes the FedEx letter he dreads never arrives, but added that he won't change how he plays, adding that on the play in question there were extenuating circumstances. He and Allen arrived at Cutler at about the same time and, as Griffen prepared to hit Cutler, not only did Cutler duck, but Allen was pulling him down and Cutler was being pushed down by the offensive lineman he had burned to get to Cutler.

"You've still got to go out there and perform and you can't think about it in those terms," Griffen said. "It's hard. You have to make sure you aim low if he's in the pocket. In my situation, he was going down, the guard was right on my back pushing me down and he fell into me. Hopefully I don't get a fine for it."

Allen, no stranger to being pen pals with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and his fine cops, said that there isn't much that Griffen can do. As he has found out the hard way, if the league thinks a hit was bad – whether intentional or not – they're going to take a chunk out of your paycheck.

"They're going to review it and if it's legal, it's legal. If they think it's borderline, you'll get the FedEx (letter)," Allen said. "You've just got to go out and play. Nothing is done maliciously, at least from my standpoint. It is what it is."

The last part of that quote – "it is what it is" – has become a buzz phrase for players who don't like a situation but have to live with it. It was also a sentiment Griffen shared, shrugging his shoulders and saying that all he can do now is wait and hope that he doesn't get any holiday mail or have the FedEx truck pull up to Winter Park with a priority envelope with his name on it.

"It is what it is," Griffen said. "I don't believe I did anything to draw a fine. I didn't at the time. I don't now. But if you get fined you get fined. That's just the world we live in now."

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

Everson Griffen hits Jay Cutler.
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