Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway said that while he’s not quite ready to say he is retiring after this season, he is treating it as though this will be his final year in the NFL.

“I was told by a friend to never guarantee that you’re going to retire,” said Greenway, the No. 17 overall pick in the 2006 draft out of Iowa. “I’m treating this season like it’s my last. I’m continuing with the mentality to grind hard and be a leader for this group. I really want to find a role and a niche with this team where I can help them win and play a pivotal role at the same time. It’s going to be a fun year and I’m looking forward to that. Really we’re just focused on what we can do better.”

So how does he feel his potential last season of pro football is going?

“Well the last year is going good, the offseason started really good,” he said. “We have a hungry group of guys. We have guys that can’t get that taste out of their mouth from that Seattle game the last postseason. Guys have come in really focused and wanting to work. It has been a fun group to be a part of. I really anticipate this group to compete extremely hard and hopefully have a lot of success.”

Greenway played considerably less last season than he did in years past. But he still was extremely productive, filling in when Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks both missed time due to injuries and finishing with 68 tackles, 2½ sacks and a 91-yard interception return for a touchdown.

It remains to be seen how much he plays in 2016. Greenway, 33, said he understands he might get fewer snaps.

“We have a lot of depth, we have great depth,” he said. “We brought in Emmanuel Lamur, we brought in Travis Lewis, we have guys that are already here, young guys with tremendous ability. But you have to have that. We have all seen that injuries happen. There’s going to be people that go down, things that happen, unforeseen things. We have a tremendous amount of depth at a lot of positions. We gained a lot of depth at offensive line and linebacker and some other positions. That’s a good thing to have.

“The playing thing will shake itself out and the right people will play on the snap that’s there. We play a lot of third-down defense with nickel and some of our sub packages, so some of those reps are limited, but that’s just the way it is. It’s about the scheme that we present and our ability to go win football games. From an individual standpoint, you have to put all those things aside and really focus on doing your job when you have a chance to play.”

Veteran leader

Greenway, who has played in 145 regular-season and postseason games for the Vikings and is their three-time defensive MVP, said this year’s linebacking group ranks with the best he has seen here.

“With the emergence of our young guys, obviously Anthony and Eric are such good players at such a young age, you have a mix of veteran leadership with myself and Audie Cole mixed in there, you have guys we brought over like Emmanuel and Travis that are fitting in nice to our room,” Greenway said. “And we have young guys like Brandon Watts and Edmond Robinson who are tremendous talents and have a ton of ability. I think as far as depth goes and talent, I’d say we are definitely up there.”

Greenway said that the organized team activities so far this offseason have been a feeling-out process in terms of how he fits in.

“It’s kind of all over,” he said. “The offseason is nice because you can kind of get looks at different positions. So you know, it’s just fun to transition. Four to five years ago, I was asked to play basically every snap of my career, and you know have to make a lot of plays and do different things and be flexible within the defense.

“As your career wanes on, it’s about you having the ability to be flexible and not be a one-trick pony. I try to remain flexible and try to continue to thrive and just be more a team guy and continue to put the team first and fit in where I can. That’s where it’s all going to shake out.”

Repeat champs?

For the first time since 2009 the Vikings will enter the season as the defending NFC North champions, but Greenway said that doesn’t mean anything to him.

“Well I think we’re capable of being a better team, but I think we have so far to go in this offseason and training camp to really identify who we are,” said Greenway, who according to the Vikings records is fourth all-time in franchise history with 1,289 tackles. “Every team is different from year-to-year, every team identifies with a certain mentality every year. Certainly our coaching staff rubs off on us in that manor, but I do think our team has a chance to be great.

“It’s the NFL. There’s so much parity. A couple of games go wrong in the fourth quarter and you give up the wrong position or a bad play and before you know it those games go the wrong way and you’re at 8-8. That’s how tight this league is, it’s so close, the margin of wins and losses. We have to continue to grind this offseason and cannot lean on the fact that we had a decent season last year that ended too closely.”

JOTTINGS

• John Sullivan is looking better than he did before he even got injured, and he is currently the Vikings’ No. 1 center, although Joe Berger had an outstanding year last year filling in for Sullivan. Next week, the Vikings might do some shuffling on the line, and while coach Mike Zimmer didn’t say so, you wonder if they will try the versatile Berger at another position.

• The Memphis Commercial Appeal wrote that there’s a good shot Charles Buggs could end up at Memphis, where former Gophers coach Tubby Smith is now. Smith recruited Buggs here but never got to coach him after he was fired. Meanwhile, Joe Esposito, who was on Smith’s staff both here and at Texas Tech, followed him to Memphis. Smith also has rehired his son Saul, who was an assistant coach here and director of video production with the Red Raiders.

• The Twins have a great story in relief pitcher Trevor Hildenberger, pitching at Class AA Chattanooga. The 25-year-old was a 22nd-round pick in 2014, and in three minor league seasons he had struck out 136 batters and walked only 15 over 119⅓ innings. Entering Saturday, he had struck out 24 while walking three over 26⅓ innings this season, with 1-3 record, a 1.03 ERA and nine saves between Chattanooga and Class A Fort Myers.

• A year ago through 56 games the Philadelphia Phillies had a 21-35 record. Now with former Twins General Manager Andy McPhail serving as president of baseball operations, they they have shown marked improvement and are 27-29.

• I can’t recall a wife who was more involved in basketball than Arilee Pollard, the wife of Jim Pollard, the great Minneapolis Lakers player and Basketball Hall of Famer. Arilee died April 22 in Lodi, Calif., at age 93.

• Michael Hurt of Rochester John Marshall, who has signed with the Gophers men’s basketball team, averaged 19.8 points per game. His brother Matthew, a Rockets freshman who is rated as the top prospect in the state for the Class of 2019, averaged 19.0 points per game.

 

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and Sundays at 9:30 a.m. E-mail: shartman@startribune.com.