Linebacker Chad Greenway was back in pads for the first time since last preseason. See what the 2006 first-round draft pick had to say about his first contact and his recovery from knee surgery, plus get more than a dozen notes and quotes from the morning practice.
With two of this year's top draft choices yet to be signed, many eyes this morning were on 2006 first-round pick Chad Greenway
as the linebacker who was putting the pads on for the first time since suffering a torn ACL in last season's first preseason game.
"Everything felt really good," said Greenway after the two-hour plus practice. "I'm trying to take a step forward with my knee and not think about it anymore, just go out there and play ball and get better. My goal is to improve every day so I can help this team win. I think I took a step forward today putting the pads back on.
"It's been 11 months, but it felt good. A little contact (in the seven-on-seven drill) really felt good. It's a good start and just keep going from here."
Greenway, who is expected to be the starting weakside linebacker, said he couldn't afford to be tentative with his surgically repaired knee.
"Out here, (if) you hold back, you get into trouble and get on your heels," he said. "As usual for the first day, there were a couple plays that could have been improved on. I could have done something differently. But that's just playing football; that's not being a step slower.
"I don't feel like I'm starting over at all. Football is one of those things, when you put the pads on, you get that same feeling every year. I just had the pads off a little longer than everyone else…I know I have a lot to improve on."
The 6-foot-2, 242-pounder from Iowa is happy to once again be on the field with a unit that will attempt to remain stout against the run while improving its bottom-ranking pass defense.
"It's exciting to be able to play with those guys," he said. "The guys up front do a good job of opening up holes and just letting the linebackers run. Having E.J. (Henderson) and Ben (Leber) beside me makes it easier on me. I'm just excited to be part of it. I just want to go out there and improve every day and see if I can help the defense win."
The linebackers consistently won in their one-on-one pass rushing drills against the running backs. The linebackers' dominance led running backs coach Eric Bieniemy to implore his backs to keep their head and hands up. But Greenway said not to read too much into the drill.
"That drill is so catered to us in the pass rush portion, and the pass receiving portion is catered to them," Greenway said. "It goes both ways. I wouldn't say we kicked any butt or anything."
Other observations from Friday's morning practice:
Rookies Chandler Williams and Aundrae Allison and veterans Bobby Wade, Jason Carter and Mewelde Moore were snagging punts from the JUGS machine before practice began at 9 a.m.
Drenching rain from the previous evening left the three practice fields soft. Players struggled at times with their footing.
The three Vikings held out of practice — left tackle Bryant McKinnie, wide receiver Billy McMullen and defensive end Erasmus James — participated in opening stretches with their teammates and then watched practice from the sidelines in shorts when they weren't doing additional stretching and conditioning exercises.
Guard Steve Hutchinson had trouble with the padding in his helmet at the start of practice. Twice, the equipment staff replaced some padding.
As expected, Artis Hicks was in for McKinnie as the first-team left tackle. Anthony Herrera replaced Hicks at right guard with the first team.
Early in practice, third-year wide receiver Troy Williamson, who was plagued by dropped passes last season, allowed a catchable ball to go through his hands. The couple hundred spectators in the bleachers reacted to the drop with a collective groan. However, Williamson was solid for the remainder of the session, making several nice catches. He also received positive comments from the fans.
Some of Ryan Longwell's field goal attempts exceeded the confines of the Mankato fields. A few kicks landed on top of a tent.
Vikings owner/chairman Zygi Wilf was on the sidelines for most of the practice. Rather than wearing a dapper suit like he was yesterday after a speech to a building commission, Wilf looked the part of training camp, donning a non-descript T-shirt and shorts.
Several players had to take what amounted to leisurely field-length jogs as punishment for jumping before the snap. This group included Hutchinson, tight end Stephen Spach, and guard Jimmy Martin.
New tight end Visanthe Shiancoe dropped an easy pass over the middle during seven-on-seven drills, but he came back on the next play and made the catch.
The best offensive play during seven-on-seven drills came on the last snap. Rookie quarterback Tyler Thigpen rifled a sideline pass to wideout Justin Surrency.
During 11-on-11 drills, the defensive front consistently applied pressure on the quarterbacks. On the first play, left end Kenechi Udeze and right end Ray Edwards quickly converged on quarterback Tarvaris Jackson.
Defensive play of the morning: cornerback Ronyell Whitaker knocking the ball away from Martin Nance on a deep sideline route.
Catch of the morning: rookie tight end Braden Jones snagging a pass over his shoulder while locked in one-on-one coverage with linebacker Jason Glenn.
Quote of the morning: "This ain't no tennis. This ain't no tennis." – linebacker Jason Glenn during pass rushing drills.