FRISCO, Texas – Maybe Everson Griffen was meant to be a Dallas Cowboy, right down to his first name.
"For one, it was my favorite football team growing up," he said. "People actually don't know I'm named after Everson Walls."
If Griffen's first year in Dallas can be as impactful as Walls' rookie season – 11 interceptions for Tom Landry's 1981 Cowboys team – this year's defense will be in good shape.
It's not often that a four-time Pro Bowl pass rusher is still available in mid-August. Griffen voided his contract with Minnesota and became a free agent in February. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the 32-year-old took time to weigh his options, including a possible return to the Vikings franchise that drafted him back in 2010. He officially signed a one-year deal with the Cowboys on Sunday.
So, why Dallas?
Griffen has a great relationship with Cowboys senior defensive assistant George Edwards, the Vikings' defensive coordinator from 2014-19. But the biggest factor might have been the Cowboys' new head coach.
Griffen has never played for Mike McCarthy, but he faced McCarthy's Packers in the NFC North division for a full decade.
"His philosophy is work hard during the week and he's going to take care of you," Griffen said. "With this schedule and what we've got going here, if players really hone in on going out there and giving it all you got, because he's going to take care of you, I think we're going to make some big hay this year."
Griffen is the latest addition to a veteran revamp on the defensive line. Aldon Smith is turning heads early in training camp nearly five years since his last NFL regular-season snap. Dontari Poe is working back into practice after starting camp on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list.
Gerald McCoy was set to anchor the interior line before a season-ending quadriceps injury. The Cowboys released him via injury waiver Tuesday.
It's a big loss, but Griffen's arrival will boost the line's overall talent and experience. He has 74.5 career sacks, including eight last season, and was a six-year captain for the Vikings. Like several players in the Cowboys' front four, he can play multiple positions.
"I've still got a lot of gas in the tank, and it's going to be a really good year," he said.
Griffen has worked with the strength and conditioning staff this week since passing the NFL's required COVID-19 testing protocols. The "gradual build" is similar to the rest of the team's pre-training camp phase in early August before practice began on the 14th.
Griffen said Sunday could be the target date for working more into practice drills.
He's excited to get started.
"I'm not trying to come in and think I know it all," he said. "I'm not trying to come in and (say) 'Yeah, I've been here so you've got to listen to me.' I'm listening and learning as well. I'm going to show you better than I can tell you. I'm going to go out there and work. I'm going to work my technique. I'm going to hustle. I'm going to get my job done, and whatever they need from me, I'm going to do at a high level. That's what it's about."