Hartman: Last-minute losses, wrist bother Greenway

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 13, 2013 - 10:49 AM

The linebacker and former Iowa star still leads the Vikings in tackles despite playing with an injury.

Chad Greenway, being the great competitor he is, is having a strong season at linebacker for the Vikings even though he is playing with a badly injured wrist.

“It has been better, every week I’ve been trying to just play through the pain,” said the former Iowa star and 2006 first-round draft choice. “But it has been something that I don’t want to give up on this team, and keep playing.”

Greenway, who signed a five-year contract in 2011 for $40.6 million ($20 million guaranteed), is scheduled to make $6.4 million in 2014 and $7 million for 2015. Neither of those final two years is guaranteed.

So the question is: Will the Vikings pay those amounts on the next two years of Greenway’s contract, or will they try to negotiate them down as they have done with cornerback Antoine Winfield and defensive tackle Kevin Williams in the past? Greenway still is ranked as the best linebacker on the Vikings roster. He has a commanding lead in team tackles with 113.

Greenway was asked how difficult it is to play when the Vikings have lost four games in the final moments by a total of 12 points.

“I think at this point it’s tough to be able to push forward, but the reality is you have to do it,” Greenway said. “It’s the way we do it, we get paid to play the game and to win. We have to continue to try and win these games.”

He was asked if those close losses are hard on players.

“It’s tough, that’s the NFL,” he said. “There’s parity. Every week is going to come down to the last two-minute drill, and we just haven’t won enough of them.”

As a member of the media, you aren’t supposed to have favorites. Well, I have to admit Greenway is not only a favorite of mine but a close personal friend I have known since his Iowa days. Nobody gives more of himself to charity than Greenway.

Taylor disappointed

After losing five of six games, the Wolves have come back to win big back-to-back games against Detroit and Philadelphia. Owner Glen Taylor said he wasn’t surprised at the team’s tough start because of their schedule, but when asked if he was disappointed, Taylor said just a little.

“Well, I would say the quick answer is a small yes, but let me answer it this way,” he said. “We knew this would be a very tough part of our schedule. We knew that from the very beginning. I think there are just games that have slipped by that we had an opportunity to win and for that reason — not only I, but I think the coaches and the players would feel the same way — that we let those games slip away when we had a chance to win them.”

Taylor said he isn’t expecting the Wolves to make any more trades after dealing 2011 first-round pick Derrick Williams to Sacramento. Williams has had back-to-back stellar games for the Kings, with 31 points and five rebounds Monday in a victory over Dallas and 13 points and seven rebounds Wednesday in a loss to Utah.

“I think at this point, we have two players that have been hurt that we expected to be in the rotation,” said Taylor, referring to injured forward Chase Budinger and center Ronny Turiaf. “Both of them will hopefully be back in December and that’s the main thing. We did do the trade with Derrick Williams because he wasn’t getting into the games, and we were able to bring in a fellow [Luc Mbah a Moute] that could play strong defense.”

What does Taylor think in hindsight about the drafting of Williams?

“It turned out to be a very bad deal,” Taylor said. “I had hopes that he would end up being a star player being drafted that high in the draft, but as it worked out he wasn’t getting into the games, and he wasn’t able to produce, and a player that is drafted that high, you have to pay a lot of money so you can’t just let him sit on the bench.

“This will give him a chance to show what he can do in Sacramento, and we think we have a player that we think can help us this year.”

Jottings

• Going into Thursday night’s matchup against San Diego, Broncos receiver Eric Decker was putting up some of the best numbers of any NFL receiver in what is turning into a breakout season for the former Gopher. Decker is ninth in the NFL in receiving yards (1,088), tied for eighth in first downs (51), tied for 11th in touchdowns (eight) and tied for 14th in receptions (71). Decker is a free agent at the end of the season, and it will be interesting to see if the Broncos decide to give him a franchise tag or offer him a long-term contract.

• Former Gophers quarterback/receiver MarQueis Gray was active for the Cleveland Browns for only the third time this season last Sunday. He had one catch for 3 yards, and has a total of two receptions for 8 yards this season.

• According to Gopher-Illustrated.com, the Gophers have gone to bowl games 11 times in the past 15 years (including this year’s Texas Bowl against Syracuse). That is more than Indiana, Purdue, Northwestern, Penn State and Illinois as well as the two teams joining the Big Ten, Maryland and Rutgers.

• Former Gophers basketball player Trevor Mbakwe continues to play well for Virtus RM in Italy. In nine games in Serie A, the highest league in Italy, Mbakwe is averaging 10.1 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in 25.8 minutes per game. … Another former Gopher, Ralph Sampson III, is playing for the Nilan Bisons in Finland and averaging 15 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks through two contests.

• Former Gopher Rodney Williams has played five games in the NBA D-League for the Delaware 87ers, the Philadelphia 76ers affiliate. Williams is averaging 8.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 30.6 minutes per game.

• One thing about Eden Prairie’s Class 6A champion football team: Nobody can say it didn’t play a tough schedule. “We played Wayzata, Minnetonka and Edina and Totino twice and Prior Lake and Lakeville North and Rosemount,” Eagles coach Mike Grant said. “We played all the best teams and still won. It’s a credit to the kids how well they played every week.”

• Former Gophers receiver Tony Levine, now head coach at the University of Houston, will lead the Cougars against Vanderbilt in the BBVA Compass Bowl on Jan. 4 after posting a 8-4 record in the regular season.

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

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