A New Day for Greenway

During the 2007 Vikings training camp, linebacker Chad Greenway had something to prove after a lost rookie season. As the 2008 training camp continues in Mankato, Greenway has the look of a different player - both confident and energized to build on his first season as a starter.

There seems to be an extra bounce in the step of Chad Greenway at the 2008 training camp. A year ago, Greenway was something of a question mark as training camp started. His rookie season had ended on the first play of the preseason – tearing an ACL as a member of a special teams coverage unit. He was looking to get his NFL career started a year later than expected, but there was a little trepidation as to how his knee would hold up when pressure was applied.

A year later, Greenway is a different player. He's a year more experienced. He's another year removed from the knee surgery. And he's ready to make a statement on a Vikings defense that is ready to shoulder its portion of the load for the Vikings' march to the postseason.

"My first couple of practices last year at this time, I was a little tentative," Greenway said. "But that didn't last too long. I got more confident with it pretty quickly. This year, I'm going full blast. There's no question about it this year. I'm having fun and I'm ready to get this season started."

Greenway was a work in progress last season. Although he wasn't part of the 2007 draft class, in many respects he was a rookie. He had only seen the NFL game from the sidelines and needed to make the necessary adjustments. As the season wore on, his confidence level began to rise. As he enters his second full year as a starting linebacker for the Vikings, he sees his progression as being light years ahead of where he was a year ago at the same time.

"Last year, my body was still trying to come back from the knee injury," Greenway said. "This year I'm feeling really good. Mentally, I'm way ahead of where I was last year and I'm way better prepared and I'm in much better condition. My goal is to be consistently better and, so far in training camp, I think I've done that. Now it's a matter of translating that to Sundays."

Also helping out is the familiarity he has with his teammates. The Vikings are returning nine defensive starters from last season and the only two changes have to be viewed as upgrades – defensive end Jared Allen and safety Madieu Williams. Unlike last year, where the starting defensive lineup had a handful of new starters, the continuity that was built last season has carried over to training camp this year. Greenway said the difference between last year's training camp and this year is palpable. He feels it. His teammates feel it. It's becoming infectious.

"Our defense is so similar to what we had last year that we can feed off of that and improve on it," Greenway said. "That's huge for us. We're at where we want to be right now and probably should be."

Just as critical will be having the defense on top of its game when the bell rings to start the regular season. Last year, the team wheezed out of the gate and spent the next two months trying to claw back into playoff contention. With an opening schedule that features three playoff teams – the Packers, Colts and Titans – in the first four games, what the players are taking in during training camp will be critical to translating into early-season success with a schedule that doesn't seem to favor them. Expectations are high in the Vikings' locker room and, with Greenway as one of the young guns being asked to lead the way, avoiding the poor start of 2007 will be key to the Vikings climbing to the top of the NFC in 2008.

"We have to be in better condition than those guys," Greenway said. "We're going to see who we are right away. We've got some very tough teams right out of the gate. That's a good thing as far as I'm concerned. We're going to have to ratchet it up a notch. We got ourselves in a hole early that we spent the rest of year trying to get out of. We don't want to have to dig ourselves out of another hole this time around."

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