Vikings' Greenway embraces role as elder statesman

MINNEAPOLIS -- When the Minnesota Vikings waived long snapper Cullen Loeffler last week, the team's senior statesman tag moved to linebacker Chad Greenway.

Linebacker Chad Greenway is fourth in career tackles for the Minnesota Vikings. (2013 file / TNS)

MINNEAPOLIS - When the Minnesota Vikings waived long snapper Cullen Loeffler last week, the team’s senior statesman tag moved to linebacker Chad Greenway.
The 10-year veteran, the last man remaining from the 2006 team, is now the Vikings’ longest-tenured player.
“It feels great,” Greenway said of his new tag. “It’s an accomplishment. I certainly don’t look at it as a bad thing. It’s something you look back at where you started in the NFL ... to think you had a 10-year career, all in one place up to this point. It’s pretty impressive and something I definitely hang my hat on.”
Loeffler had been with the Vikings since 2004 until he was let go in favor of third-year player Kevin McDermott. Becoming the longest-tenured player was bittersweet for Greenway since he had become close with Loeffler.
“It’s more about a personal relationship I had with him as a friend and as a guy you worked with for a decade, knowing the kind of work he put in,” said Greenway, a first-round draft pick in 2006 out of Iowa.
Greenway, 32, long had talked about wanting to play a decade for the Vikings. That has happened, despite him having to take a pay cut this season, from the $7 million he originally had left on his contract to $4 million for 2015.
Will there be an 11th year? Greenway said he won’t start thinking about that until after this season.
“I haven’t made any decisions at all,” he said. “I just want to continue to play at a high level, and I think it will be a pretty easy decision for me once it does happen. I’m certainly not going to make my decision until after this season is through. I just want to focus on this team and this opportunity.”
It was a frustrating ninth season for Greenway. He missed four games in 2014 and saw an end to a streak of playing in 115 consecutive games.
Greenway first missed three games in September and October with a broken hand and broken rib. He later sat out the season finale against Chicago after hurting his knee in a December game at Miami.
Greenway played that game against the Dolphins just two days after his father, Alan Greenway, had died from leukemia in the family’s hometown of Mount Vernon, S.D. Iowa offensive line coach Brian Ferentz, a college teammate of Greenway’s and a good friend, said the outside linebacker choosing to play that day shows the loyalty he has to the Vikings.
“There’s not that many guys like Chad Greenway out there in the world,” Ferentz said. “All you need to know about Chad Greenway is he lost his father on a Friday evening and he played on a Sunday and he ended up getting hurt in that game. Then he flew out and buried his father on Monday.
“It wasn’t for a playoff contender or anything. There’s not many guys in the NFL that would feel such an obligation to a football team to want to play in what a lot of guys would consider a meaningless game. He’s a loyal guy, he really is.”
Greenway will be in the Vikings’ starting lineup when they open the regular season Sept. 14 at San Francisco. But he spends part of his time now helping groom the man who could be his replacement.
Minnesota drafted Eric Kendricks in the second round of the 2015 draft. Kendricks is playing middle linebacker as a rookie, but coach Mike Zimmer thinks his best position in the future is as an outside linebacker.
“You learn from Chad by what he tells you, but you also learn by watching him on film,” Kendricks said. “It’s just little things that he knows that maybe I haven’t gotten a grasp of yet because he just has so much more experience than I have.”
Greenway is one of Minnesota’s most experienced players, but he said he has room to improve.
“Basically, the No. 1 thing I want to get better on is to take on blocks at the point of attack,” he said. “Getting on and getting off blocks.”
If Greenway can do that, it could help him continue to move up on Minnesota’s all-time tackles list. He ranks fourth behind Scott Studwell, Matt Blair and Jeff Siemon with 1,219, and says he’s feeling good following the injury-riddled 2014 season.

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