Bring on Weekend (cont.)
Posted: Thursday June 14, 2007 11:37AM; Updated: Thursday June 14, 2007 1:16PM
"That's what happened when I signed my deal in '05," Griffith says. "The Fed Ex cost $14.11 or something, and when I got my check, they'd deducted it -- the check was for like $499,985.89, or whatever. That's how they do s--- in Arizona. That's how they run their business!"
Griffith is laughing as he relates the story. He's not bitter toward the Cardinals, who brought him in the season after Denny Green, his former coach in Minnesota, got the Arizona job; he simply believes that reports of the franchise's new-found financial aggressiveness are greatly exaggerated. "They're all show," he says. "They're a facade. They say, 'We've got the nicest stadium in North America' -- and they do. But everything else is to the penny. When we're not there on Tuesdays, they put a lock on the Gatorade fridge in the locker room."
As the Cardinals' '06 season unraveled, Griffith correctly figured that Green was a goner and that, as a player associated with the old regime, he probably wouldn't be re-signed. "So I told the truth," Griffith says. "[VP of football operations] Rod Graves was always trying to pimp me for information on how to make the team better. I told him Denny's staff was horrible and that the organization needed to step it up if they wanted to have a first-rate program. I said, 'You've got to tell these cheap-ass owners that after a road game, they've got to have some food in the locker room. Instead of making us wait to eat until we get on the plane, spend $400 to $500 and get us some burgers and hot dogs.'"
Considering that Griffith is heavily into organic foods -- he's the majority owner of Optimal Nutrition, a San Diego-based company that produces and distributes such healthy fare -- that seems like a modest request.
He also has TV announcing aspirations, which given his vocabulary and looks isn't surprising. Yet, while Griffith may be pretty when out of uniform -- hey, he did a guest turn on The Young & The Restless -- he's gritty on the field. Undrafted after leaving San Diego State in 1992 (he later graduated with a degree in electrical engineering), Griffith played a year in the CFL before landing with the Vikings, for whom he shined in two NFC Championship game defeats. He had 12 unassisted tackles in the '98 game, in which heavily favored Minnesota was stunned in overtime by the Atlanta Falcons, and a team-high 15 tackles two years later when the Vikes were pummeled by the New York Giants, 41-0.
That was the infamous game in which Moss, the team's star wideout, appeared to quit after the team fell behind by two touchdowns in the first quarter and went into halftime trailing 34-0.
"I think a few guys quit in that game," says Griffith, who played in the Pro Bowl after that season. "It might have been me and a couple of other guys that didn't, and that's it. It was so frustrating, because it wasn't like [the Giants] did anything we didn't practice for.
"I'll never forget their second touchdown: We knew that when the Giants' fullback, Greg Comella, offset to our left with Tiki [Barber] in the backfield inside our 25, he would run a wheel route. The whole defense is going, 'Watch out for the wheel route!' Dwayne Rudd, the linebacker who had the coverage, turned and said, 'I got it. I got it.' Then, bam -- wheel route to Comella for a touchdown. That's when I knew it was going to be that kind of day."
For what it's worth, Griffith likes Moss and believes his former teammate will have a huge year for the Patriots, who traded a fourth-round pick to pry him from the Raiders in late April. "He'll be on a team that's going to win and will have the national spotlight -- those are two big things for Randy," Griffith says. "I'm not sure you'll see the Randy of 1998, but I think you'll see 15 touchdowns.
"It'd have been a disaster if he'd stayed in Oakland with a new head coach that's [almost] younger than him, but I don't think he'll be a problem in New England -- because they have the right people in place there, and accountability is a must."
Left unsaid is the sales pitch that, if the Patriots are looking for someone to help protect their investment in Moss, signing the wily Griffith on the cheap would seem to be an obvious move. But Griffith, having spent his career watching fallen superstars like Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith practically stagger out of the league, knows not to overstate his own value. "You look at all those great players who didn't go out on their own terms," he says, "and you say, 'What makes you think you're so special?'"
Griffith is wise enough to know that in not taking the Cardinals' hint and calling it a career, he has become a cliché. He's well aware that most people with this much tread on their cleats will spend the 2007 season sitting on the living-room couch, icing their knees and practicing for a long retirement's worth of cursing Gene Upshaw.
Then again, Griffith also understands that more than almost any other position, a savvy safety can compensate for declining physical skills. Taking the right angles and anticipating plays has allowed once dominant players like Ronnie Lott, Ron Woodson and John Lynch to thrive in their waning years, and Griffith is convinced he can do the same.
In the meantime, he has a wedding to attend. Afterward, Griffith and his bride will honeymoon in Spain and Portugal. Delusional or otherwise, he hopes that by the time they return, at least one team will be prepared to take the plunge.
2 of 3