ALLEN PARK, Mich. -– If you were just walking by and saw Adrian Peterson and Everson Griffen grappling, you might be concerned. You might think they were angry at each other. That they didn’t like each other. That the wrestling and bickering back and forth was an actual fight.
That is, until you hear them talk about it. For them, this is fun. It’s a challenge, a level of respect between two ultra-athletic, high-level football players finding yet another way to compete.
Peterson described his relationship with Griffen as very close, putting his fingers one over another when talking about their friendship one once again rekindled on the same team after Detroit traded with Dallas for Griffen last month.
“We wrestle,” Griffen said. “That’s what we do. We wrestled a lot. 'AD' was always a role model to me. I looked up to AD, Adrian Peterson, his mentality, his hard work and his dedication to his sport and he loves the game of football.
“And anything I can do to just try and feel him and get some of his superhuman powers, I would do. So we would wrestle.”
For years, they were offensive and defensive stalwarts on the Vikings, trying to make each other better during practice and enjoying pushing each other daily. They were separated for a few years -- Griffen still in Minnesota until he signed with Dallas this offseason and Peterson bouncing from New Orleans to Arizona and then Washington and now Detroit. When the trade happened, they became teammates again.
Perhaps fittingly, their first game together as Lions will be in Minnesota on Sunday -- and Griffen even spoke like he was cutting a pro wrestling style promo when he talked about how he felt disrespected by Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer recently.
And the Peterson-Griffen reunion means wrestling again comes to the forefront. Sort of. COVID, Griffen said, will likely keep them from their competitive, intense, friendly matches this season.
“They used to wrestle each other a lot in the locker room,” said Lions safety Jayron Kearse, also a former Viking. “That’s something I remember from my rookie year. Just going through it and coming in after practice, I’m tired as hell and they are older than me, so they still have the energy go to out there and wrestle where I’m like, I couldn’t, I ain’t got nothing left in me.
“They have a great relationship. Obviously, they’ve been together for a number of years.”
Which meant a number of matches. Griffen, who has two inches and 50 pounds on Peterson, would win the majority of the time. Griffen estimated he leads the career matchup, 15-8, although there is one match that remains contested between the two of them.
Every Friday, there would be a food spread and one of the Fridays, they had a Chinese restaurant popular among the players cater a meal. Griffen and Peterson started jawing. Everyone knew what was next.
And it could have been worse. Except Peterson wanted to save the food.
“If you were outside and you didn’t know that we were just having fun, you probably would have really thought we were into it,” Peterson said. “And I caught him slipping. You have to ask him about this, he won’t admit it, he will say he won all of them but I caught him slipping and his knee bent back and I took advantage and I rushed him. I ended up stopping because I was going to run him into all the food. Now, when I think about it, I should have just sacrificed the food because when I eased up he came full-strength ahead and, ‘Bam,’ slammed me into the ground.
“I’m just like, ‘Brah.’ That pretty much ended it. But I was like, ‘Bro, you see you lost; I gave you up so why did you take advantage of me like that.’ He’s like, ‘No, I had you. I had you.’ So we kind of went back and forth about that for a little bit.”
It all comes from a place of love for the two of them, from Minnesota to Detroit and on Sunday, back to Minnesota again.