Before Chad Greenway re-signed with the Vikings in March, he watched them add a challenger for his starting gig in free-agent outside linebacker Emmanuel Lamur. And a few weeks after Greenway signed on the dotted line, the Vikings drafted yet another linebacker in Kentrell Brothers, the fifth they have drafted at Greenway’s position in the past three years.
If Greenway feels threatened about his job security, he isn’t letting on.
“That’s the NFL,” Greenway said. “Bringing in Emmanuel this year is huge for us. He’s going to help us win. So it’s less about the competition within the group and more about what we can do to provide wins on Sunday.”
During yesterday’s first practice of training camp, coach Mike Zimmer mixed and matched his defensive personnel, shuffling a bunch of players in and out against the first-team offense. But during spring workouts open to the media, Greenway was usually the weak-side linebacker in Zimmer’s 4-3 base defense and he also got plenty of work in the nickel package.
Zimmer and the Vikings would not have brought Greenway back if he didn’t think he could still play. And the 11-year veteran would not have rejoined the Vikings for another season if he didn’t feel the same way.
Greenway shrugged when asked about fending off all the young guys.
“I don’t think I have to do anything special or unique. I just have to come out here and play good football,” said Greenway, the team’s first-round pick way back in 2006. “I left off last season playing good and felt great. My health hasn’t changed. I’m a few months older. That’s about the only thing that’s changed. So I just have to come out here and be myself.”
Greenway is the unquestioned leader of this deep group of linebackers, which includes every-down starters in Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks. Another recent draft picks include Audie Cole, Edmond Robinson, Brandon Watts and Brothers. There won’t be room on the team for all of them.
Even though they potentially pose a threat to his playing time, Greenway is always available to give them guidance, whether it is on or off the field. But “they’re pretty good on their own,” the 33-year-old said.
“I’m certainly willing to give them some help,” said Greenway, who recorded 68 tackles, 2.5 sacks and a pick-six in 2015. “But these guys are good kids, they’re smart, they know what to do and certainly they have the instincts to go out there and play ball well. That’s what got them here.”
And then there is the matter of his own future. When Greenway signed back for another season in March, he said this was going to be his “last” season. But now Greenway, perhaps invigorated by being back in Mankato for another training camp, is leaving himself a little wiggle room.
“I’m just trying to enjoy every day … knowing that [after] my 11th season I hope I can talk myself into being done,” Greenway said. “That’s the plan.”