In what many have become claiming to be the final season for Minnesota Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway – including Greenway himself – he is looking at a lot of things as potentially being his last. He may well be finishing up his last minicamp in advance of his last training camp and his last season.
But, for now, he’s focused on enjoying the prospects that the Vikings have in front of them heading into the 2016 season.
Greenway appeared on the NFL Network program “NFL HQ” Wednesday to discuss what is widely being viewed as his NFL swan song. The topic of his age is something that constantly comes up, whether it’s from reporters or from Greenway himself.
When asked about the buzz surrounding a Vikings defense that could potentially be dominant, Greenway pointed out that he’s not only been a part of the process of building the defense since the arrival of Mike Zimmer, but the growth process of players who were there before Zim arrived.
"It's a fun group to play with,” Greenway said. “I'm 33 years old and we have so many good young players. I think it's great to sit back and watch them grow, get better. Get a chance to mentor Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, two great young linebackers who really took the NFL by a crazy storm the last couple years. Just to watch those guys grow, watch Harrison Smith become a leader, Everson Griffen, these guys are going to be great players and are great players and just want to continue to watch them grow and really lead this organization in the right direction."
In a piece that ran later Wednesday night on NFL Network, the topic of Mike Zimmer arose, focusing on his unique coaching style that can be at different times loved or hated by players, but always respected.
When it came to his impressions of Zimmer, Greenway admires the qualities in Zimmer that are the same as the qualities that make for great players with long NFL careers – a single-minded love of the game and working as hard for the guy next to you as you do for yourself.
"Coach Zimmer, he's a passionate guy,” Greenway said. “He loves the game of football and I think most importantly he loves to coach. He loves to be out there; that's where he's at his happiest. I think to go out there, his accountability that he pushes on us for being exact, whether it be in alignments, whether it be what we have to do that play in either coverage or run responsibilities, he's on us every single play and he's consistent throughout the year. I think having that accountability from the head guy and knowing that's he's in there putting in the work to get us prepared, it just motivates you as a player to go in there and get better, and it just pushes us leaders, us veterans, to kind of impose that on the younger guys and just continue to grind them."
Greenway has begrudgingly admitted over the last couple of seasons that he is feeling the wear and tear that a decade in the NFL brings with it. Along with that realization has come the thought of life after football and what that will entail when he walks away from the game.
So, when it comes to Adrian Peterson’s repetitive outlandish career projections – 2,500 yards in a season, breaking the all-time rushing record, etc. – Greenway has just smiled and said he wouldn’t doubt if Peterson could accomplish those lofty goals. After all, coming off a devastating knee injury that had even medical professionals doubting Peterson could return as strong as before, he ran for nearly 2,100 yards and came one missed tackle away from the single-season rushing record.
But, when it comes to Peterson’s recent claim that he can play running back at a high level until he’s 40 years old, Greenway had to agree to disagree.
"I call BS on that,” Greenway said. “I've been a teammate of his for 10 years now and seen firsthand the amazing things he's done throughout his career, whether it be in-game or in practice. He’s just been a great teammate and a great friend to me. At this point I don't think there is anything he's not capable of, honestly. I've watched him grow into a great NFL player, a great man, a great father and I think it's just impressive to watch him work. You can't say he can't do anything because he always goes out there and proves you wrong, so I'm just going to let him work."
Greenway has earned his spot in Vikings history. There will come a time when the Ring of Honor at the same U.S. Bank Stadium Greenway will help inaugurate will increase in length by adding Greenway’s name to the list of legends that have worn purple and gold over the last half-century.
How long that moment will take will be up to the powers that be with the Vikings. But they couldn’t have asked for a more loyal employee. A Midwest kid who grew up in South Dakota and played his college ball in Iowa, it seemed only natural that he would play professional football with the only team within that footprint – and he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
"It feels great,” he said. “This is how you draw it up. This is my 11th season in Minnesota. I always had a goal to play for one team my whole career, following the footsteps of the legendary Jim Kleinsasser, a North Dakota boy and UND alum. It's a dream come true for me.”
Greenway has seemed resigned to the fact that 2016 will be his final NFL season. A lot of players have said that in the past only to have what, in sports terminology, is often referred to as “boxer’s remorse.” They convince themselves there is still enough gas in the tank to get the grind done for another year. Brett Favre did that for the better part of the decade of the 2000s.
Greenway has often spoken about wanting to end his career as a Viking, and with his earning power no longer at a level where it would make financial sense to leave his family behind and become a town-to-town mercenary as often happens for those looking to prolong NFL careers, Greenway is content to be a Midwestern boy who lived out his dream.
But he has received from sage advice from someone who thought his career might be over without achieving one of his primary goals and he never said that the next setback would be his last setback. While it’s likely that 2016 will be Greenway’s last NFL season, he’s probably not going to say it as often as he has in the recent past.
"Coach Zimmer mentioned to me it would not be wise to continue to mention this would be my last year because you just never know,” Greenway said. “I tend to listen to his advice."