Vikings' Greenway ready to put 2011 in rearview mirror

Vikings' Greenway ready to put 2011 in rearview mirror
Vikings all-pro linebacker Chad Greenway enters his seventh season determined to improve on last year's 3-13 record.

MANKATO — Chad Greenway has been the Minnesota Vikings' leading tackler in four consecutive seasons. He earned his first Pro Bowl berth last season, when he recorded a career-high 174 tackles.

The numbers that Greenway chewed on all offseason, though, were 3 and 13, as in the Vikings record in 2011.

"Last year, we got to ourselves in the head a little bit," said Greenway, who enters his seventh season in the NFL, all with the Vikings. "The foundation was here and with a veteran quarterback, with Donovan here, sometimes you give yourselves too much credit.

"We have to go back to being humble and knowing where our bread is buttered. That’s by winning at the end of the ball game, two minute situations, making kicks, defense getting off the field on third downs, it’s just basic things that we can do."

Greenway, a native of tiny Mt. Vernon, S.D., where he led his 9-man football team to back-to-back state titles, has seen the highs and lows of the NFL in his six seasons.


He suffered a torn ACL while covering a kickoff in the first preseason game of his rookie season in 2006. He bounced back a year later and earned a starting position. He hasn't missed a game since, playing in all 83 of the Vikings games over the past five seasons, including the 2009 NFC Championship Game loss to New Orleans.

Since that game, Greenway has seen more lows, particularly the 3-13 record of a year ago. He's intent on doing all he can to not see those numbers in that order ever again.

"We’re not going to have too many people barking up our tree for playoff births or division titles," Greenway said Saturday, after a training camp practice at Minnesota State University, Mankato. "We’re just going to have to grind for every win and we’re young, and it’s going to be the best scenario for us to kinda lie in the weeds and be the underdogs so to speak."

Greenway, a two-time All-Big Ten Conference player at the University of Iowa, is expected to again be one of the leaders on a defense that will mix some talented veterans — Jared Allen, Antoine Winfield — with a lot of young or unproven players — safety Harrison Smith, linebacker Jasper Brinkley.

"It’s been a pretty unbelievable offseason as far as personnel and you know, a lot of new faces, a huge youth movement," Greenway said. "There’s nothing that I’m going to say that will prepare those guys for what they’re about to go through. You just have to do it. For us it’s about leading by example and showing the right way to practice, the right way to do things."

Despite his career-best tackles total and his Pro Bowl trip, Greenway said 2011 was not his best year as a pro. He'll likely share the field with two young linebackers this year — middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley, a fourth-year pro, and outside linebacker Erin Henderson, a fifth-year pro. So, Greenway said he'll need to play like he did in 2008 and 2009, when the Vikings made the playoffs.

"The few years previous to last year, I thought I was playing better, but I'll take the Pro Bowl trip," he said. "I took some steps back in some areas. That's just looking at it realistically.

"We had good defenses in ’08, ’09, ’10. We gave ourselves a chance by just being in the right spot at the right time. We’re going to get back to doing that."

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