Greenway, the ninth-year pro and 2006 first-round draft pick of the Minnesota Vikings, has started 90 consecutive regular-season games, the longest active streak among linebackers in the NFL. But broken bones in his ribs and his hand will end that streak as the Vikings have officially declared him out for Sunday.
The South Dakota native and University of Iowa alumnus started last week’s game, a 20-9 loss to the New Orleans Saints, with his left hand wrapped heavily to protect the broken bone there. He was also dealing with a broken rib.
Eventually, in the second half, Greenway came out of the game. On Monday, head coach Mike Zimmer said he probably shouldn’t have played Greenway and wouldn’t play him this week at home against the Atlanta Falcons if he played like he did against the Saints. On Friday, that became official with the release of the injury report.
Last year, Greenway led all Minnesota defenders by playing in 1,152 snaps – a whopping 98.8 percent of the defensive plays. Up until last week, Greenway had played in all but eight snaps this year, exiting the season opener early after the Vikings had the game in hand.
“It’s awesome. He really went out there and laid it all out on the field,” rookie first-round pick and fellow linebacker Anthony Barr said of Greenway playing last Sunday. “It’s too bad he’s banged up right now, but we’ve got to pick up the slack without him.
“It’s unbelievable. It shows his commitment to the team and his love for the game. We just wish him all the best in his recovery.”
Greenway has been through the rigors of playing with broken bones before. Last year, he played much of the season with a broken wrist, a toughness factor that isn’t lost on his teammates and coaches.
Now the job will fall to second-year pro Gerald Hodges, who will be making his first start.
“He’s doing a great job. I thought he had a great week of practice. He’s a gamer. He’ll be totally fine,” Greenway said of Hodges. “He’s going to make a ton of plays and be all over the place. Just try to keep his emotions in check and know he’s got to play a lot of snaps. He’s going to be awesome.” Greenway didn’t practice on Wednesday last week and was limited Thursday and Friday. He ended up with three tackles.
This week, he didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday and Zimmer said he would have to practice Friday to play against the Falcons.
His presence and experience will be missed. Greenway has led the Vikings in tackles each of the last six seasons, tying the franchise record held by Scott Studwell, and earned second-team All-Pro honors in 2012. He was also voted the team’s defensive MVP three of the last four years and was the Vikings Community Man of the Year in 2011.
As one of only six players on the team with more than eight years of experience, he’s a leader among the linebackers for sure.
“I’d say of this team, really, one of the leaders of the team,” Barr said. “It’s going to be tough without him, but you can’t really dwell on it. We’ve just got to pick up the slack.”
STILL HONING THE RUSH
The Vikings started out being impressed with Barr’s ability to blitz, but now Zimmer is just as impressed, maybe more so, with his ability in coverage.
“Like a lot of young guys, you’ve got to work on the technique. He’s improved tremendously in the pass coverage and actually we’ve got to work him better in the pass rush,” Zimmer said.
Prior to becoming the Vikings’ top draft pick in May, Barr had only played defense for two seasons at UCLA.