Greenway ‘starting all over again'

Chad Greenway had found a comfort zone in a familiar spot in a familiar defense over the past seven years. This year, the defense, coaches and schemes are all new, and his position might be too.

About the only thing we're sure of with Chad Greenway this year is this: He isn't likely to be called the strongside linebacker after having that be his label for the past six years.

Regarding that semantic point, it's more about how head coach Mike Zimmer labels his linebackers compared to Leslie Frazier's terminology. But while Greenway may end up fulfilling many of the same responsibilities being called the weakside linebacker in Zimmer's defense, he also might be seeing some turns at middle linebacker.

It's a point the Vikings have danced around since shortly after Zimmer was hired as the head coach, replacing Frazier. At Thursday's organized team activity, Greenway started out in his usual outside linebacker spot, but he was also seen making adjustments as a middle linebacker.

No matter what position he plays, he is having to prove himself all over again – to a new coaching staff and in a new scheme.

"For me, it's really being able to come in and say, ‘Hey, I want to learn something new. I want to be good at it,'" Greenway said. "It's about going back to stripping yourself down from the tape last year and starting all over again. It's nice to know that most likely you're going to have a position out there if you can stay healthy and play, and play up to the coach's standards, but nothing's obviously given to anybody."

Greenway and Zimmer already seem to be forming a good working relationship. After Greenway called out an adjustment on defense and blitzed, Zimmer approached Greenway shortly afterward on the sideline. He wanted to know what Greenway saw and why he made the call.

From afar, there was no indication that Zimmer disagreed with Greenway's assessment, but it was a getting-to-know-you-better moment for coach and player.

"This is the first chance, really, for me to learn something completely new. It's been good," Greenway said. "I go through the same growing pains as the young guys, as far as learning new stuff. Sometimes it's even harder for me, because I have everything so ingrained over the years. It's been a fun defense to start to learn, and we've just got to get good at it now.

"I probably haven't studied this much football in six or seven years. It's been a long time. I'm always carrying that iPad and notebook around, trying to learn and ask as many questions as possible. There's a lot of things to learn, a lot of things these coaches know that come up in this scheme that hadn't come up before. They've done a good job presenting it to us, and we're trying to learn and make it right."

That's exactly what Zimmer wants to hear. He is well aware that his defense is new and probably more complicated and aggressive than anything Greenway has run since joining the Vikings as a 2006 first-round draft choice.

"It's important to him. That's why he's been a good player for a long, long time is because it's important," Zimmer said. "If we had 90 of those kinds of guys, it would be good. But I do think our guys are studying a lot. Hopefully we're keeping them accountable about knowing what they're supposed to do all the time. It makes me feel good."

To a man, the players agree that this coaching staff is all about accountability on both sides of the ball. The learning curve appears to be steep, but players also are under the impression that coaches are being methodical about how much and how quickly they install their schemes.

Greenway said going up against Norv Turner's multi-faceted, often-shifting offense in practice makes it even more difficult for defenders to adjust on the fly.

"It's nice to be out of your comfort zone. As athletes, we try to put ourselves out of that comfort zone as much as possible, and try to be comfortable there," Greenway said. "That's where we're working now."

Zimmer said Greenway is a "good guy, he's smart, he's very conscientious. He's a pro's pro, but he should fit in very well."

Greenway doesn't know if he will be playing middle linebacker once the season starts or not. He's been doing it some throughout the offseason, he said, and he has no doubts he can play it effectively from a physical standpoint. From a mental standpoint, he's still working through the details, as is every other defender.

Eventually, the confusion could turn to confidence. It's a point that Zimmer seems to realize will take some time.

"I did tell him yesterday everything is happening pretty fast right now. The offense is shifting and doing a lot of different things and so it complicates other things," Zimmer said. "It will slow down once everybody starts getting a little more comfortable with the terminology and the calls and the movements on offense and the motion and formations and play calls. Once that happens, it will slow down a little bit, but it's good that everything is going fast now because they feel like, ‘Whoa, I've got a lot of work to do.'"

Count Greenway among those.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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