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Vikings' Griffen talks about meeting Ali

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Everson Griffen met Muhammad Ali about 20 years ago. He realizes better now what a landmark moment it was. The Vikings defensive end grew up in the Phoenix area, where Ali lived. Griffen, 28, said when he was 8 or 9, he was...

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Everson Griffen met Muhammad Ali about 20 years ago. He realizes better now what a landmark moment it was.

The Vikings defensive end grew up in the Phoenix area, where Ali lived. Griffen, 28, said when he was 8 or 9, he was at a Boys & Girls Club event at a golf course.

“Ali pulled up and I took a picture with him,’’ Griffen said Tuesday following a practice during organized team activities. “It was me and (and seven other kids). He showed a little boxing skills, and even with the (health) condition he was in, he still had fast hands.

“It was an awesome experience to meet a legend. It was cool, but I was a knucklehead at the time, so I probably was running around and doing something else (during part of Ali’s visit).’’

The three-time heavyweight champion died last week at 74 following a 32-year battle with Parkinson’s disease. Griffen said he met Ali on one other occasion at a similar age, but the visit to the golf course is the one he really remembers.

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“I shook his hand,’’ Griffen said. “At the end of the day, it was probably a big moment of my childhood meeting Muhammad Ali.’’

Griffen had great respect for Ali as an athlete and humanitarian.

“He’s the best fighter of all time in my book,’’ Griffen said. “But it’s not just in the boxing ring what he did. He was out there in the community trying to give back and change how people perceived different things. He was just a prime example of doing all the right things.''

Battle at safety

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said he has no plans to choose a starting strong safety until training camp.

“One thing I try not to do, especially in OTAs, where we’re not in pads, is to try to jump to some kind of conclusion on who should be the starter,’’ Zimmer said. “I’ll kind of let that play out in camp.’’

Andrew Sendejo and Michael Griffin are the leading candidates to start. Zimmer said he also likes what he’s seen this spring from Antone Exum, Anthony Harris and rookie Jayron Kearse.

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Elsewhere in the secondary, cornerback Trae Waynes didn’t play much last season as a rookie. But Zimmer said he’s looking more comfortable.

“He’s progressed,’’ Zimmer said. “Here’s what I told somebody earlier (Tuesday), ‘Last year was more about learning what to do. Now it’s having a feel for the game.’ … My expectation is to get him to be more aggressive in the coverage because he knows what to do now.’’

Treadwell making strides

Zimmer said rookie wide receiver Laquon Treadwell is making good progress and recently has had three strong days of practice.

“He’s really got good acceleration,’’ Zimmer said. ‘He’s fast off the line, he runs good routes, he catches the ball good and he’s got a good feel on how to run the routes.’’

Treadwell, taken with the No. 23 pick in April’s draft, let it be known he might be even better when the Vikings practice in pads.

“I’m a physical guy, so being out there in shorts is kind of hard to be physical and play aggressive,’’ Treadwell said.

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Captain’s kid

Minnesota cornerback Captain Munnerlyn was excused from practice Monday and Tuesday to be with his fiancée, LaKisha Gunn, who gave birth Monday in Charlotte, N.C., to a baby boy.

Munnerlyn is expected back later this week following the birth of Champ. The couple will be married June 25 in Charlotte.

Also not practicing were offensive linemen Alex Boone and Mike Harris, linebackers Anthony Barr and Travis Lewis, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, cornerback Mackensie Alexander and tight end Rhett Ellison. Defensive linemen Linval Joseph and Scott Crichton took part in position but not team drills.

Zimmer declined to discuss injuries except to say he’s not concerned about Barr, who has not been practicing this spring. Zimmer wouldn’t disclose his injury.

Bridgewater going deep

It’s generally acknowledged Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater must show improvement throwing the deep ball. Zimmer said that is happening.

“He just seems to be cutting it loose a little more,’’ Zimmer said. “You know, he sees it and he lets it go. He’s shown some really nice deep balls. He seems like he’s, I guess, matured, and he’s more comfortable in everything that he does.’’

Bridgewater, the starter since the fourth game of his rookie season of 2014, said last week he’s feeling more comfortable entering his third year.

Related Topics: MINNESOTA VIKINGS
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