Officially, Chad Greenway is listed as a second-year player from the University of Iowa. Unofficially, however, Greenway has to be considered a rookie.
"He didn't take any real snaps last year and didn't get to see all the real bullets fly in the regular season," said fellow linebacker Ben Leber. "I know he doesn't feel like a rookie because he's been around here and he's familiar with the system and the organization, but certainly he's a rookie when it comes to game experience. But the one thing I've seen out of him is last year even before he got hurt he hit the ground running and knew exactly what he was doing. He's a very smart player and he's going to pick it up. I know he's excited and he's going to do well."
Greenway has been the starting weakside linebacker for the Vikings in their organized team activities to this point in the offseason and there is no reason to believe he won't remain in that position heading into training camp in late July.
Last year, Greenway was a first-round draft pick heading into training camp, but he wasn't being given the keys to the starting weakside position. E.J. Henderson was the starter there and Greenway was the backup. A freak injury on the opening kickoff of an Aug. 14 preseason game quickly ended his season before it began, but with the same amount of regular-season experience as he had last year at this time, Greenway is penciled in as a starter for 2007.
Even so, Leber said he has no worries about Greenway in a starting role.
"I don't think he feels like (he's a rookie) and I know we don't feel like that about him as a group because he's been around," said Leber, the veteran of the starting linebackers with five years of NFL experience. "He's not a new face. He may be a new guy at that position and I know him personally, and he may feel he's inexperienced and needs to see some reps like that, but us as the other 10 guys, we're used to seeing him work out and we're used to seeing him around. So it's pretty easy to get used to."
Teammates and coaches know that they don't have to worry about a lack of effort from Greenway if his rehabilitation from his torn ACL last August is any indication.
"We want to find out what the limits are, if there are any, and right now we are letting him go," said defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. "There is nothing so far that is saying pull back. As long as he can go 100 percent and do everything that we are asking, we don't plan on pulling back because he needs to find out for himself what he can and can't do and this is a great opportunity for that to happen."
Greenway's recovery timeline is impressive. He was injured in the middle of August, had surgery by the end of August and was walking without crutches by the end of September. He started to attend meetings with the rest of the team after the initial phases of his rehabilitation allowed, and by the end of the season he was already walking around without a cast and showing few effects of the injury.
His quick progress was a surprise to some.
"At first I was (surprised), and then after getting to know the guy personality-wise and seeing how driven he is and highly motivate he is, it was no surprise at all," Leber said. "This kid wants to get back and it means so much to him. The way he came back after 3 ½ or four months, it's really unbelievable. I just cross my fingers that he stays healthy.
"It sounds like he just pushed himself harder than what some other people may do. I think maybe genetically some people can get rid of swelling a little better than others, but I knew that he was able to get the swelling out of there quickly and get it operated on quickly and then again break up all that scar tissue and stuff. I saw him on the training table a couple times with his eyes closed and just squeezing through the pain, so he's a tough kid."
Frazier said the Vikings were monitoring Greenway's progress and the soreness in his knee last week during the team's four days of OTA practices, but the early feedback was encouraging.
"I talked with him before the (second) practice and there was no soreness, no pain. He feels real good and hopefully we can just continue to see that type of positive work throughout, but so far, so good," Frazier said.
That's been the initial evaluation of Greenway's practices to date as well: So far, so good for the starting weakside linebacker entering what is essentially his second rookie season.
Few Worries with Greenway
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