For a variety of reasons, Chad Greenway has been the linebacker most consistently used with the Vikings’ first-team defense.
Greenway, at 31, is easily the elder statesman of the linebacker corps and also of the defense, three months older than Brian Robison. Greenway also has the most experience of any of the linebackers, with 112 regular-season NFL games played and 111 starts.
“I appreciate it. It takes a lot of work to get here and be that guy. I was almost proud of it,” he said of being the elder statesman.
But the Vikings don’t show any signs of limiting his play count on the field. Last year, he played in almost 99 percent of the Vikings’ defensive snaps, about 8 percent more than next on the list, Jared Allen. Greenway has been the linebacker most consistently used with the first-team defense in the base and nickel packages.
That also means he is likely to be the one wearing the helmet wired to allow communication with the sideline. Neither he nor defensive coordinator George Edwards could say for sure that Greenway will be the one getting the defensive calls from the sidelines, but it seems the mostly likely and logical option.
“It may pan out that way. One thing about Chad, like you said, you know what you’re getting everyday with Chad,” Edwards said. “He’s a hard worker, he’s a pro, he’s always prepared. His communication in and out the huddle right now has been very beneficial to everybody else to kind of calm the storm when we start getting all these shifts and all these different formations and those type of things. Right now, he’s really a big part and cog in there as far as the communication part of our defense.”
But Greenway is also learning a new defense after spending his first eight seasons in the NFL operating in the team’s Tampa-2 defense. With a new head coach, those days are largely over.
Mike Zimmer’s defense calls for more rotation of personnel, more disguised looks and numerous looks using unconventional counts with safeties, cornerbacks and linebackers.
“There’s a lot of differences. It’s hard to get into specifics, but there are a lot of differences and adjustments and things you have to be aware of, especially with the formations and stuff,” Greenway said.
“Things have been good. Obviously you make some mistakes, like everybody, but I think you do that with any camp, no matter if you’ve been in the defense a long time. You’re going to make some mistakes and some things you’ll learn from right away. Just don’t make the same mistakes.”
Greenway said it’s difficult to pinpoint just how aggressive the defense will be this year because he doesn’t know which options Zimmer or Edwards will call for at any specific point in a game.
At this juncture, the coaches are also trying to figure out which players fit best for certain situations.
“We know primarily where we are starting to play guys. It’s just a matter of the Mike (middle linebacker) position is such a hard position to play, as far as most of those guys and the banging they have to do in there and the route matchups and those sorts of things,” Edwards said. “Seeing the different skillsets, we think we’ve got a good group of Mike linebackers, we just want to see who is going to come to the top competition-wise and win out the position. Going into camp, that’s what you want as a coach. You want things to be unsettled and guys to go out there and work hard every day because competition is going to bring out the best in all of us.”
Now in his ninth training camp with the Vikings, Greenway knows the drill. Training camp means renewed optimism, no matter what happened last year.
“Everybody’s got a good feeling this time of year. Everybody thinks they can win the Super Bowl,” he said.
“I think every year you have high expectations. There’s never a situation where you come and not expect to win a lot of football games. It’s about accountability and just holding yourself to a higher standard every day and hopefully that means us all getting better together.”
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Greenway could get communication helmet
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