The large gentlemen in the locker room milled about, dressing, commiserating. They had lost a game in the waning seconds. They had conducted interviews, admitted to lapses, fumed and showered. They walked around in various stages of dress and grief, and talked. And kept talking.
Chad Greenway, Brian Robison, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Erin Henderson, the guys who have played on the Vikings defense together for years, turned over the still-fresh memories of the loss like farmers tilling barren soil.
They’d still be talking days later — to teammates, family, coaches. NFL careers are short. NFL seasons are short. It would be convenient if NFL memories were short. Greenway’s is not.
He was on the field when the Chicago Bears scored the winning touchdown on Sunday at Soldier Field. He parsed the game with his fellow veterans and headed for the team plane.
Time to turn the page?
“I kept rehashing the game in my mind,” Greenway said. “In this day and age, we’re able to get video on our iPads almost instantaneously. We’re able to see breakdowns, communication issues, everything that happened.”
He kept talking it over with teammates, then reached the airport and headed home. Time to turn the page?
“I have a 6-year-old now and she eats and breathes Vikings football,” Greenway said. “When we win, she’s happy, and when we lose, she’s sad. We’re like anybody else. We try not to take our work home with us. I try not to let my work life affect my mood when I’m with my kids. Then, when they go to bed, I’ll put the film back on and get in another hour before bed. My wife is watching ‘Desperate Housewives’ or whatever, and I’m watching game film.”
He went into Winter Park on Monday, and the team studied game film some more. Time to turn the page?
“We’re not truly over it until we watch the film on Monday as a group,” he said. “I think the way we played the first two weeks, and especially the way that game in Chicago slipped away from us, I think we’d be selling ourselves short and our fans short if we didn’t take that all the way to the core as about as bad a loss as you can have.
“We fought hard. That’s all great. But when you don’t win, and you lose in that style, with some breakdowns that you can’t have, it’s just so disappointing because we put so much work into it.”
These are the stages of losing for an NFL veteran: Anger, frustration, enlightenment, acceptance … and frustration?
At midweek, Greenway was still churning.
“I think fans fail to realize sometimes how hard we take it,” he said. “They think, well, it’s professional sports, they’re making money, they don’t care about wins or losses, but the reality is, we take it so personal.
“I had two missed tackles in the open that you’ve just got to make. That eats me up. That drives me to the next week.”
Greenway has played on a team that finished 3-13, and a team that came within a Mardi Gras bead of the Super Bowl.
“It’s hard to get out of a hole like we’re in, at 0-2,” he said. “That’s why you can’t get caught up in the losses or the bad play. You have to push on. If you let it affect you, you wind up in a bad groove. When you say teams have to learn how to win, it’s that you have to get out of the mode of losing and letting it stretch into next week and become a habit, and before you know it, you’re 3-13. We’ve been there.
“You have to push to get to that good place, and get those good feelings. We have people here who buy into that and eat their own mistakes, and that’s why we were able to make that push last December, because we trust each other.”