Michael Griffin says his 10-year NFL career was a blessing that lasted far longer than some of his former teammates at the University of Texas.
The two-time Pro Bowl safety officially ended that career Monday by signing a one-day contract with the Tennessee Titans and retiring with the franchise that drafted him with the 19th pick overall in 2007. Griffin Ronnie Harrison Jersey , who wore No. 33 in his career, retired at the age of 33.
”I can’t say enough, thank y’all, just thank y’all,” Griffin said at a news conference inside the team’s indoor practice field. ”That’s probably all I can say is just thank y’all because it’s a blessing, and I’m so thankful to have that opportunity for the last nine years to play for this organization.”
Griffin started 10 games as a rookie and played 141 games over nine seasons with Tennessee, including 103 straight between 2007 and 2013. He remains the franchise’s all-time leader in tackles by a safety with 912. Griffin also had 25 interceptions, seven sacks, 11 forced fumbles and six fumble recovers with his best season in 2008 with seven interceptions.
Controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk thanked Griffin for his nine seasons with the Titans and wished him the best in retirement.
”He was such a dependable player for us during his time here, missing only three games over nine seasons, and he was always among our leading tacklers Braxton Miller Jersey ,” Strunk said in a statement. ”His play earned him two Pro Bowl selections and the respect of his teammates. Michael also was invested in our community, finding ways to make a difference.”
The Titans released Griffin in February 2016 when he was tied with Corey Graham of Buffalo for the most games played by a safety in the NFL between 2007 and 2015. Griffin signed with Minnesota but didn’t play a game. He then signed with Carolina and started six of 13 games with the Panthers in 2016. He finished his career starting 134 of 154 games played in 10 seasons.
Griffin spent the 2017 season working out in case a team called and finished his degree at Texas. He said even when he was with the Vikings and Panthers he always felt he remained a Tennessee Titan.
”I was always cheering my guys on, always texting them if someone went down, ask how they were doing, keep their heads up, if someone was released whatever it may be,” Griffin said. ”I always stayed in contact with those guys.”
Titans linebackers Brian Orakpo and Wesley Woodyard and defensive linemen Jurrell Casey and DaQuan Jones were on hand for Griffin’s announcement.
Ask Leighton Vander Esch about his improbable path from eight-man high school football to first-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys, and the rookie linebacker is quick with a retort of never being fazed by brighter lights or bigger cities.
Ask the former Boise State walk-on what he does to relax, and Vander Esch stares silently as his smile grows.
”Uh,” he said Friday, the first day of rookie minicamp. ”I don’t even know.”
Maybe that helps explain his rise to Mountain West Conference defensive player of the year and his showing at the combine and other workouts that stood out to new Dallas linebackers coach Ben Bloom. The Cowboys drafted Vander Esch 19th overall two weeks ago.
”It’s kind of hard for me to relax Tyler Eifert Jersey , honestly,” said Vander Esch, who signed an $11.8 million, four-year deal later Friday. ”At this point, expectations are so high there’s no time to relax. There’s no days off. You’ve just got to keep trucking away.”
Linebacker was one of the primary needs for Dallas going into the draft because of Sean Lee’s history of injuries, Jaylon Smith’s continuing recovery from a serious college knee injury and Anthony Hitchens‘ departure in free agency.
The Cowboys hadn’t drafted a linebacker in the first round since Bobby Carpenter 12 years ago in almost the same spot (18th). Carpenter didn’t get a second contract, leaving Dallas after four years in a career that ended after seven seasons. He never had more than 37 tackles.
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is already talking rotation with Lee, Smith and Vander Esch for two spots. If Lee stays healthy, that’s more likely to mean shared time between Vander Esch and Smith, a second-round pick in 2016.
Smith didn’t play as a rookie while recovering from the devastating injury during his final game at Notre Dame and was inconsistent last season, particularly early in the year when he was playing more than expected after Hitchens injured a knee in the preseason.
”We’re going to play the best guys Josh Bellamy Jersey ,” Bloom said. ”Everybody linebacker in the room has the ability to play at least two positions. We’ll get the best guys on the field and they’ll be asked to have multiple positions.”
Lee’s best fit is weakside linebacker, but he’s missed at least one game because of injury in seven of his eight seasons. The only exception was his All-Pro year in 2016.
Vander Esch considers himself a middle linebacker and flatly denied a report from before the draft that a neck injury sustained at Boise had prompted some NFL teams to downgrade him on draft boards. Regardless, the Cowboys weren’t one of those teams.
Owner and general manager Jerry Jones likes to compare Vander Esch to Rolando McClain, a first-round flameout in Oakland who had the best year of his career in 2014 in helping the Cowboys to just their second playoff win since their last Super Bowl title following the 1995 season.
Size would be a good place to start with that connection. McClain was 6-foot-4, same as Vander Esch, with an almost identical listed weight. The rookie is listed at 256.
”There’s always pressure to perform,” Vander Esch said. ”Obviously this is the biggest level now so there’s even more of it. You’ve just got to relax yourself and go out and do what you do.”
After helping Salmon River High School in Riggins, Idaho, to a pair of state titles, Vander Esch walked on at Boise, about 150 miles south of his hometown. After a redshirt year Matt Slauson Jersey , he progressed fast enough to bypass his senior season and enter the draft.
”You’ve got to be able to adapt quick no matter what,” Vander Esch said. ”You’ve got to able to take on anything and not worry about it, not stress yourself out, not get all flustered with it.”
With his focus so much on football, Vander Esch didn’t mind getting flustered over a question about what he does for fun.
NOTES: DT Maliek Collins is likely out until training camp after breaking a bone in his left foot Thursday during offseason workouts at the team’s practice facility. He is expected to have his second surgery on that foot since January. The first procedure was for a stress reaction that bothered him last season, although he didn’t miss any games. … WR Terrance Williams, who broke a bone in his right foot in January, has been working on the side with trainers. Coach Jason Garrett said his recovery is on schedule, which likely means a return at training camp.
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