Coach Mike Zimmer revealed the nature of the cause of Griffen’s injury — nature itself.
On his way to practice on Thursday, Griffen suffered a concussion in a car accident when he swerved to avoid hitting a deer, Pioneer Press reporter Chris Tomasson tweeted on Friday.
The four-time Pro Bowler and heart of the Vikings defense over the past half-decade has been ruled out of Sunday’s matchup with the Arizona Cardinals.
Linebacker Anthony Barr (knee), left tackle Christian Darrisaw (groin) and slot cornerback Harrison Hand (hamstring) have also been ruled out of the Cardinals game. Linebacker Eric Kendricks is questionable with a quad injury.
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Next Man Up
Griffen’s absence in Arizona will be felt primarily from a moral standpoint. However, the Vikings defensive line should still be in good shape.
Griffen played 28 snaps (41%) on defense in the Vikings’ season-opening loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Danielle Hunter (60 snaps, 87%) and D.J. Wonnum (47 snaps, 68%) started and will likely see a similar amount of work on Sunday.
Stephen Weatherly, who played 17 defensive snaps (21%), is the likely candidate to see an uptick in usage.
The Vikings do lose some versatility as Griffen could line up anywhere on the defensive line. Fourth-round rookie defensive end Patrick Jones II or second-year defensive tackle James Lynch could be in line for more of a role after both were healthy scratches a week ago.
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Vikings Defense Faces Major Test in Cardinals
Kendricks’ status will be a crucial factor heading into gameday as the Vikings will need to find a way to contain Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, who threw for four touchdowns and 289 yards in a 38-13 victory over the Tennessee Titans.
If Kendricks can’t go, Troy Dye would likely take Kendricks’ spot as middle linebacker.
The Cardinals wide receivers corps will challenge a Vikings secondary that struggled to contain the Bengals a week ago. DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk and A.J. Green are all names to be reckoned with, while rookie Rondall Moore has proven to be a Swiss-army knife the team will scheme a variety of plays around.
Patrick Peterson has welcomed the matchup of Hopkins, who played together last season in Arizona.
According to Pro Football Focus, when Peterson has been covering Hopkins all-time, Hopkins has been targeted 18 times, with nine catches, 125 yards and three touchdowns, per AZCardinals.com.
“You rarely see D-Hop drop passes. He catches all of the contested throws,” Peterson said of Hopkins, who last year had a career-high catch percentage at 75 percent, per Vikings.com. “You just have to make those windows a little bit tighter and be a little bit tighter with coverage. Just try as best as you can to make his day a living hell.
“D-Hop is one of those receivers that invites the physicality of the DB. That’s kind of how I play my game, as well,” Peterson added. “I want to be physical with the receivers and get in their head and [have them] thinking about me a little bit more. But D-hop is different. He invites that.”
The Vikings pass rush will be their strength entering the matchup after tallying five sacks and seven QB hits last Sunday.