So who ranks No. 2 on the “ironmen” list among active NFL linebackers when it comes to consecutive starts?
“Me,” said Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway.
Greenway was told his number stands at 76 heading into Monday night’s game against the Giants. The number he prefers, however, is 101. That’s how many consecutive games he’s played.
“It would be 101 starts, too, but we opened in the dime [six defensive backs, one linebacker] against the Lions in a game in 2008,” Greenway said. “E.J. [Henderson] was the dime linebacker back then. I came in on the second snap.”
In a manly game with bodies breaking down all around them, players who are able to remain standing and active for long stretches have every right to pat themselves on their still-healthy backs.
“It’s something you do become proud of because you put a lot of work in,” Greenway said. “You put a lot of work in the weight room to keep your joints strong, in the training room doing stuff like cold tubs and all these other things trying to get your body ready to play. You play hurt. You take a lot of pride in it. What [Redskins linebacker] London Fletcher has done [playing in an NFL-leading 245 consecutive games] is, to me, absolutely amazing.”
Among active defensive ends, Vikings 10-year veteran Jared Allen ranks No. 1 in consecutive starts (99) and No. 2 in consecutive games played (99) behind Dallas’ DeMarcus Ware (134).
“That’s pretty sweet,” Allen said when told he’ll reach No. 100 on Monday night. “To me, it’s one of those things where I believe, if I can go, I can go. I think I owe it to my teammates. They count on me to be on the field. And it’s just a mentality I’ve always had. I think everyone is hurt, everyone is injured along the way.”
Allen has missed only three games in 10 seasons. His current streak began, ironically, against the Vikings in Week 3 of the 2007 season. He returned from a two-game suspension and posted two sacks in a 13-10 win that week.
The only other game Allen has missed was against the Ravens in Week 4 of his rookie season. That’s the only game in his career that he’s missed because of injury (sprained knee).
Allen will join just 21 current non-specialists who have played at least 100 consecutive games and eight who have started at least 100 consecutive games. The players who have at least 100 consecutive starts are: Fletcher (204), Giants quarterback Eli Manning (141), Jets offensive tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson (118), Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (118), Cardinals offensive tackle Eric Winston (110), Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez (107), Cowboys tight end Jason Witten (105) and Texans center Chris Myers (102).
Something that former Rams defensive end Jack Youngblood said years ago has stuck with Allen to this day. Youngblood, of course, famously played the 1979 playoffs, including Super Bowl XIV, and the 1980 Pro Bowl with a leg fracture.
“I remember the saying by Youngblood, ‘If I can run on it, tape it up and give me an aspirin and we’ll deal with it later,’ ” Allen said. “That’s always been my mentality. Guys who played before me, those guys played beat and battered. It’s kind of a badge of honor to go out there whether you’re hurt or whether you’re healthy, and give it all you got for your teammates.”
Ndamukong Suh has been a nasty, highly fined force at defensive tackle since the Lions drafted him second overall in 2010. But he might not be the best D-tackle taken that year. Geno Atkins, taken 120th overall in the fourth round by the Bengals, leads NFL defensive tackles with 27 sacks since 2010, including four in six games this year.
Suh is second at 24½. The two will be on the same NFL field for the first time Sunday. Atkins told Lions reporters he’s cool with where he was taken. “Suh was a beast,” Atkins said. “He was the best defensive player … I can understand why he went first.”
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