Shaquem Griffin of Seattle Seahawks says ‘time to get to work’ after draft day experience


RENTON, Wash. — Shaquem Griffin said he had no problem with all the attention he’s received as perhaps the biggest story of the 2018 NFL Draft. But after what he described as a “whirlwind” period of media interviews and an unforgettable experience on draft day, he’s turning his focus squarely to football.

“Now that’s over with and it’s time for us to get to work and make sure I give high competition,” he said, “make sure I give the coaches a chance to see who I am and make sure I can do my best to make sure I can make my players better and help anybody I can.”

The first step towards that goal came Friday, when Griffin joined the Seattle Seahawks‘ other eight draft picks, 15 undrafted free agents and dozens of other players for the start of the team’s three-day rookie minicamp. It was Griffin’s first practice with the Seahawks since they chose him in the fifth round, making him the first player in the NFL’s modern era with one hand to be drafted and reuniting him with his twin brother, Seahawks cornerback Shaquill Griffin, in the process.

“Quem looked very aggressive,” coach Pete Carroll said of Friday’s practice. “We had to slow him down in some stuff early in the practice. In the walkthroughs he was going too hard so we had to chill him out a little bit. But he’s very excited about being here. He’s a very, very good looking prospect. He’s big and fast and he had a good feel for what’s going on. Obviously, [Shaquill] had done a little bit of tutoring. He was ahead of us a little bit, which was good.”

The speed that the Seahawks had to temper Friday was part of what drew then to Griffin, who was clocked at 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine for the fastest time by a linebacker in more than a decade. The Seahaws are putting him at the weak-side linebacker spot, where they feel his speed and relatively smaller frame are best suited. For now, he’s projected to back up former Pro Bowler K.J. Wright there and compete for a part-time role on defense in addition to playing special teams.

Griffin, listed at 227 lbs., said he’s added a few pounds since the combine and plans to meet with the team’s strength and conditioning coaches this weekend to make sure he knows what weight they want him playing at.

“I feel pretty comfortable there,” he said of the weak-side spot. “When I was at UCF, I played a lot of different positions, so I don’t feel uncomfortable moving around. I feel like where they put me at right now is a pretty good fit. It doesn’t matter where I play at, as long as I get an opportunity to help better my team in any aspect, I’ll play anything.”

Griffin isn’t taking anything for granted. When asked what it’s like to be done with the “auditioning” of the pre-draft process, he offered a correction.

“Well, everyone here is still auditioning, so I wouldn’t say the auditioning part is over,” he said. “Everybody’s out here fighting to get a spot, fighting to get on the 53-man roster. That’s what I don’t want nobody to get beside of because no spots are a given out there. You’ve got to work your but off. This is a great team and you’re going to learn from great leaders and great players, and the only thing you have to do is keep working your butt off and eventually you’re going to get to where you want to go.”

Griffin’s quest to reach the NFL has become such a wildly popular story. He told ESPN last month that his mother was getting stopped in public for picture requests. The family even fielded interview requests from China and Italy.

“Just deal with it and then keep moving forward,” Shaquem said of all the attention he’s received. “It’s nothing really for me to be able to say it’s overwhelming or anything. It’s just, you do the interviews, you interact with everybody and you make sure that at the end of the day, you focus on why you’re here and that’s to play football and make sure I can contribute as a teammate.”

Carroll called it “extremely important” for Griffin to shift his focus to football.

“It’s been a great story. It will always be a great story, but right now he’s got work to do and he’s got focus that he’s got to generate,” Carroll said. “There’s a lot of people tugging on him for all of the right reasons and all that, but I know he’s very determined and we are to help him in his pursuit of making the club and making the spot and all of that. He’s like everybody else. He’s got to compete like everybody. He’s going to do it. He’s going to bring it. But it’s important, and the fact that he’s talking to you guys about it, he understands and he’s gotten the message and he’s very clear about it. So we appreciate [the media] giving him a chance for everybody that’s working. It’s just such a wonderful story, he’s a wonderful kid and all that. I get it. But right now, it’s ball.”

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