Adrian Peterson and Blair Walsh aren't the only Vikings chasing records and single-season highs.
Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway currently leads the league in tackles – he has a two-tackle lead over Carolina's Luke Kuechly – in a season in which he has been credited for his leadership as much as his on-field production.
"I still go back to how much he's grown as a leader. I felt like he would get better as a player over time, but what he's brought to our defense and to our team from a leadership standpoint has really helped us to grow up over the course of the season," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "That has been big for me and the rest of the staff and our players. The football part, we thought he was going to be a good football player, that's one of the reasons we franchised him a few years ago. But what he's provided in the locker room as well as on the sidelines has really helped our team."
Before last season, Greenway signed a five-year, $41 million contract extension that had $20 million guaranteed. Along with Adrian Peterson's massive extension, it locked up the team's leaders on offense and defense for the foreseeable future.
In both cases, the players with the big new contracts hardly rested on their riches. Each of them committed to playing to the level of their contract.
Off the field, Greenway said he has become more comfortable with the mantle of defensive leader.
"I think it's just the role that you meld yourself into and biding my time behind those guys that I played behind – E.J. (Henderson) and Ben (Leber) and then kind of worked my way into that position. I think it's something you take pride in," Greenway said. "Obviously you come out here and lead by example, but you have to be a little bit vocal sometimes, too, and that's the part I wasn't doing as much, just being vocal and trying to let my voice be heard a little bit more."
Frazier attests to the results there.
"He's much more vocal now than in the past," Frazier said. "In the past he kind of let other people take the lead when it came to encouraging a guy or really chastising a guy for whatever it may be. He's not afraid to do that anymore, or reluctant to do it is probably a better word. That has helped our football team."
The Vikings defense appears to be better for it, and for other reasons. Despite a youth movement in the secondary, they appear better equipped to handle a solid passing game than they have in the recent past, and the health of the players in the secondary has contributed to improvements there, too.
But when it comes to tackling running backs and tight ends near the line of scrimmage, that has been Greenway's domain. League tackling stats differ from team stats, and the Vikings credit Greenway with 176 tackles, based on coaches' film review. That's 65 more than the next closest person on the team – rookie safety Harrison Smith. Greenway also has five quarterback hits and three sacks, both of those number tying for best on the team among non-defensive linemen.
Greenway admits this is likely his most productive season as a pro.
"I think so. I think if you look at the numbers it probably is. I've just been trying to be consistent, be the same guy every year and let the numbers fall where they may," he said. "Just trying to be the guy inside and out each game and be there for my guys."
In two of the last three games, Greenway had a season-high 14 unassisted tackles. Last Sunday against St. Louis, he also had a tackle for a loss, a sack and a pass defensed.
"He's had a great season all the way through, but his activity on Sunday, the sack that he got, the hits on the backs, he just was all over the place," Frazier said.
According to the team statistics, Greenway has already eclipsed his previous season high for tackles (174 last year) and still has two games to play.
Despite what is already his career-best season, Greenway says there wasn't any specific technique he concentrated on improving during the offseason. Rather, it had more to do with pushing back against the team's losing ways the last two years.
"Having fun. Just having fun, playing ball. That was it. Technique-wise, I know I'm capable of being one of the best in the league at 4-3 outside linebacker," he said. "It was more about going out and doing it and letting loose and playing, and I think I've done it."
Greenway reached a professional first last year when he was a Pro Bowl alternate. This year, he was fourth in fan voting among NFC linebackers last week, with the votes from players and coaches still left to be counted.
While Greenway would rather get his team to the playoffs, the Pro Bowl bid helps, to some degree, solidify his talents to himself.
"Probably in some ways. It doesn't make or break your career obviously, but it's certainly nice to get an accolade like that, even if I was an alternate," he said. "It is what it is, you just go out there and play and have fun. It's more important to have your teammates rely on you each week."
With his increased leadership, that's happening more often these days, too.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Greenway's leadership felt on and off field
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