Chad Greenway knows the score: Father Time is undefeated in the NFL, but Greenway is playing the willing soldier as his snap count could fluctuate heavily in his 10th season.
Greenway is one of the most tenured Minnesota Vikings players on the team. Others are older and have more time in the NFL, but no one has more time with the Vikings. While some of the older players were on the field more, like 37-year-old Terence Newman playing all 73 defensive snaps on Sunday, Greenway was on the field for only 14 snaps.
He understands why. The opposition’s personnel packages, combined with the way the Vikings are using him, dictated it. He figured he wouldn’t be on the field much when the Detroit Lions declared tight end Brandon Pettigrew out with an injury.
“My role has been the same really since training camp started. It’s more about what the other team does from a personnel standpoint,” Greenway said Monday. “When I signed to come back, I knew the role could be different than I had in the past nine seasons. It was to be expected, especially with Pettigrew – their tight end was down and they would get in some different sets. And then we get in the lead, which is where you want to be. The way I look at it, we’re 1-1 and we got a good win. We’re moving on. Who knows? I played 60-some snaps in the first game because of the personnel that was on the field. It’s the way it is.”
Of course, the veteran linebacker is right. In the season opener, when the San Francisco 49ers employed three tight ends on the field often, Greenway finished tied for fifth among Vikings defenders, playing 63 of 73 snaps.
When Greenway agreed to sign a one-year, $4 million deal in March that included a $500,000 roster bonus per game, the writing was essentially on the wall. A little over a month after signing, the Vikings drafted linebacker Eric Kendricks in the second round. The plan was to play Kendricks at middle linebacker and possibly eventually take over Greenway’s weakside linebacker spot whenever his time in Minnesota is done.
That isn’t yet, but it could be next year.
Greenway is still considered a starter, but since the Lions played so many three-receiver packages, Greenway was on the field for only 14 snaps while Anthony Barr played 75 snaps, Kendricks 53 and Gerald Hodges 28.
“He is handling it like a pro and we probably should have played him a little bit more last week, but I’m not going to worry about how guys think about how much they should play,” said head coach Mike Zimmer, who appreciates Greenway’s leadership. “My job is to get this football team to win. And some weeks they get more plays and some weeks they get less plays. I’m not going to get into all that stuff with the players and I think they understand it and Chad is a professional. I love him and he’s a great kid. He’s a leader, he’s a captain and I think he’s enjoying his time. Would he like to play more? I’m sure he would, but that’s just the way it goes.”
Last year, Greenway played in only 12 games because of injury but still played in 70 percent of the team’s snaps, meaning he was on the field nearly all the time in games he played.
On Sunday, while other players entered the postgame locker room drained, Greenway had a different perspective. On Monday, it much the same as some of the defenders were moving slowly after a physical game while Greenway appeared fresh.
“I was sitting on the sidelines like, ‘Man, this is really a different perspective here.’ It wasn’t a negative thing,” Greenway said. “It was one of those deals where you know that going into the game. I’m not playing in the sub package right now. I’m trying to do my part to help win football games. That’s the only thing I’m worried about.”