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Legendary Vikings defensive ends pulling for Griffen to break their record

Cleveland Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer is sacked by Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen during an NFL International Series game at Twickenham Stadium in London on Oct. 29, 2017. Kirby Lee / USA TODAY Sports

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — A pair of legendary Vikings defensive ends are rooting for Everson Griffen, who enters Sunday's game at Washington tied with Jared Allen and Jim Marshall for the franchise record of at least one sack in eight consecutive games.

"I think it's phenomenal," said Allen, who had his eight straight in 2011. "Records are meant to be broken, so I'm rooting for him."

Marshall, who first set the mark in 1969, also will be pulling for Griffen.

"I think Everson is having a great year and that he is a total player," Marshall said via text message. "I'll be watching on Sunday. It's a given he'll get at least one sack, and I'm hoping he gets more."

Griffen is listed as questionable for Sunday's noon kickoff with a foot injury, but head coach Mike Zimmer said he will play. Hurt in Minnesota's previous game, a victory over Cleveland in London Oct. 29, Griffen returned to practice Friday, Nov. 10, after sitting out Wednesday and Thursday.

He declined comment Friday and didn't talk to the media all week.

In a phone interview this week, Allen had plenty to say about the season the eight-year veteran is having.

"I always said that once he mastered the mental part of the game that he would be an all-pro because he's so physically gifted, and I'm just really proud of him," said Allen, Griffen's teammate from 2010-13. "He's been crushing it."

Allen said he has texted Griffen four or five times this season to offer congratulations. Through eight games, the right defensive end is tied for third in the NFL with 10 sacks, one behind leader Calais Campbell of Jacksonville.

Griffen is on pace for a 20-sack season, something that has been accomplished just 11 times in the NFL since sacks became an official statistic in 1982. Two players have done it with the Vikings: Allen with 22 in 2011, and Chris Doleman with 21 in 1989.

"If Ev could do it, that would be great," said Allen, who played in the NFL from 2004-15 and ranks 11th on the all-time sack list with 136. "It's extremely tough to do in this league now, where short passes are more like the run game and seven-step drops aren't as prevalent. Getting 20 sacks is incredibly hard, and if anybody can do it, it's amazing."

Griffen entered the NFL in 2010 but wasn't a starter his first four seasons, when Allen was entrenched as the right defensive end and Brian Robison was on the left side. Robison is still a teammate, and you'd better believe he's also pulling for Griffen to set the team mark.

"I'm happy for him," he said. "He's worked really hard, and as a defense we're proud of that streak."

If Griffen can keep it going Sunday, he could match Simon Fletcher's record of 10 straight games on Nov. 19 against the Los Angeles Rams. Fletcher accomplished his feat over two seasons, 1992-93.

Griffen also is bearing down on his season-high total of 12 sacks set in 2014, when he took over as the starter after Allen signed as a free agent with Chicago. Griffen had 10½ sacks in 2015 before slipping to eight last year, when Danielle Hunter led the team with 12½.

"I saw (Griffen) this offseason and was teasing him that he didn't lead the team in sacks last year, and he told me, 'This is is going to be different this year,'" Allen said. "He's absolutely been having a dominant season, and I love it.''

There's something else Allen really likes about how Griffen, 29, has progressed with the Vikings.

During his early days with the team, Griffen had off-the-field issues, including a January 2011 arrest on a charge of public intoxication. Three days later, he was pulled over while driving with an invalid drivers license and Tased when he tried to flee on foot.

"I tell him I'm more proud of the person he's become," Allen said. "When he was young, he made some bad decisions, but you kind of grow from it, and he's grown from his mistakes. ... I'm really proud of his maturation both on and off the field."

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.