Former Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway has stayed close to the NFL and the Vikings by teaming up with the Super Bowl Host Committee to help lead volunteer efforts in the Twin Cities for Super Bowl LII in February. But when Greenway was asked if he missed the game itself, he didn’t hesitate to say no.
“It hasn’t been too tough, to be honest with you,” he said. “As my career was winding down, I kind of knew that I wanted to be done playing. This first year out has actually been pretty enjoyable. I have had a lot of fun. It has been fun to watch the guys win and play so well, but I haven’t missed it.”
Greenway was with the Vikings for 11 seasons (but only played 10, after missing his rookie season in 2006 because of a torn ACL) and finished fourth in franchise history with 1,334 tackles. And while he said he loved playing football, one of the big reasons he was fine with walking away from the game was because he still had his health.
“The biggest thing is I have four kids, and I’m married and have a wife. So it’s one of those things where I’m more concerned with my health and my longevity at this point,” Greenway said. “It didn’t factor into me wanting to be done, I just knew I didn’t want to play anymore. It was a situation where I knew I was ready to move on, and I haven’t looked back since it happened.”
So in his first year away from the game, Greenway has focused on his charitable work and his volunteer work for Super Bowl LII.
“I do a lot of speaking events but as far as foundation events, we have most of them coming up in the spring,” he said about his Lead the Way Foundation. “We’re pretty quiet right now but the foundation has been growing. Even this year in retirement it has been a great season, probably our best year as a foundation, actually. It has been good.”
And when it comes to Super Bowl LII, Greenway said the volunteer committee received 30,000 applicants. They narrowed that down to 10,000 volunteers who will greet people at the airport, direct them around the city and otherwise help out-of-town visitors.
Greenway was asked about the Vikings linebackers this season.
“Ben Gedeon is playing the position I played last year and he has played solid, steady football,” Greenway said. “He has been a really good player and a great special teams guy. And of course Eric [Kendricks] and Anthony [Barr] have been playing lights out.
“Those guys, as they came in, you could tell they had a lot of talent. As I got older in my career, you could feel those guys and their presence was going to be good. They are good players. Now that is sort of their defense, as backers, that’s kind of why they are playing so well because those guys are the core of it. They are in the middle of the [defense] and playing well.”
Greenway said the Vikings defense, ranked first in the NFL in total defense (280.9 yards allowed per game), is better than last season and might be the best they’ve had in some time.
“The numbers tell me that yes they are, absolutely,” he said. “The numbers tell me that, [from] the pass rush on the back end to the way we’re covering the middle of the field, the number two rush defense in the league (87.1 yards allowed per game, just behind the Eagles’ 75.9). We’re way better on third downs, so yeah, this is the best defense we have had here in a long time.”
Greenway said he watches games a bit differently these days.
“I look to see if the baby needs something or if the kids need something,” he said. “When I watch the game, I just try to enjoy them. I don’t try to watch too much of the ins and outs of it, just try to enjoy it as a fan.”
The Vikings already have their most victories since 2009, when they eventually lost 31-28 to the Saints in the NFC Championship Game. If they finish 13-3 by beating the Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday, they will have their best record since 1998, when they went 15-1.
“The NFL is a wins-and-losses sort of business, so any time you are winning, it’s so much fun to be a part of that and be around that,” Greenway said. “You can just tell the guys are having fun here, very businesslike, but they’re having fun.
“For me, 2009 with the NFC title game was the best run that I went on. Only playoff game I won was that year. Other than that, any time you made the playoffs it was a fun situation, but we didn’t have a lot of success there, unfortunately.”
Greenway said he keeps in contact with a lot of friends on the team and sees them regularly. He was asked if he had any thoughts, as someone closely tied to Super Bowl LII, about what it would mean for the Vikings to play in the game here.
“To have a home game for the Super Bowl would be pretty amazing,” he said. “With the way they’re playing, I think they’re very capable.”
After Greenway’s retirement, Brian Robison became the longest-tenured Vikings player, in his 11th season with the franchise.
From 2011 to 2016, Robison was one of the better defensive linemen in the NFL, recording 44½ of his 59 career sacks, with a career high of nine in 2013.
But this season his playing time has been more limited, playing 55.9 percent of the Vikings’ defensive snaps, which ranks 12th on the team. Still, Robison has been effective when he is on the field, recording three sacks and 18 tackles.
Earlier this season, he was asked if it bothers him to play less than in previous years.
“I’m not worried about that. I’m worried about winning ballgames,” he said. “It’s not about me. It’s about our team and winning ballgames and trying to be where we want to be at the end of the year, chasing our ultimate goal.”
He added that when it comes to the defensive line, the most important thing this season has been their combined play.
“It’s about all four of us working together. It’s not about individuals,” he said. “This is about the Minnesota Vikings. It’s not about Danielle [Hunter], it’s not about Brian Robison, it’s not about Tom Johnson, it’s not about Everson Griffen, it’s about the Minnesota Vikings defense working together and being on the same page.”
Robison, 34, is earning a $3.9 million base salary this season and is on the books for 2018 at $3.2 million.
The Vikings could surely still use Robison’s veteran presence in the locker room and on the field next season. When asked if he has any plans to retire, he said that for now it’s not on his mind.
“I don’t know. I take it one day at a time,” he said. “I’m not thinking about the future. I’ll worry about that in the offseason and see how my body feels and just take it day by day. We’ll see where it goes.”
Sid Hartman can be heard on WCCO AM-830 at 8:40 a.m. on Monday and Friday and at 9:30 a.m. on Sundays. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org