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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zulgad: Greenway will finish where he started and that comes as no surprise

By Judd Zulgad

Odds are high that Adrian Peterson is entering his final days as a member of the Minnesota Vikings. The running back has been told the club won’t pick up his option for 2017 and thus he officially will become a free agent on Thursday.

There has been lip service from both sides about Peterson staying put, and finishing his career in Minnesota, but that seems unlikely.

“I think (Peterson) understands there’s also a big benefit in finishing your career with one team,” coach Mike Zimmer said last week at the NFL Scouting Combine. “ … It really gives the player an opportunity to feel good about themselves, and I think it’s good for us organizationally.”

Zimmer’s message makes for a good sound bite, but when it comes to Peterson you’re dealing with a soon-to-be 32-year-old who thinks he has plenty of football left in him and will be willing to move to another organization to prove it.

The same does not hold true for a 34-year-old linebacker who played his first regular-season game for the Vikings the same year Peterson entered the NFL as the seventh-overall pick in 2007.

Chad Greenway will end his 11-year career where it began when he announces his retirement during an 11 a.m. press conference on Tuesday at Winter Park.

Seeing Peterson wearing another jersey will be a bit odd but not really surprising. Seeing Greenway wearing another team’s colors would have been far more jarring.

That’s because Greenway never had any intention of leaving the Vikings.

The 17th-overall pick in the 2006 draft out of Iowa, Greenway’s rookie season came to an end in the exhibition opener against Oakland when he tore the ACL in his left knee on kickoff coverage.

Greenway did not miss a game the following seven seasons, only missing one start in that time. He led the Vikings in tackles from 2007 through 2013, tying former Vikings linebacker Scott Studwell for the most consecutive seasons leading Minnesota in that category.

Greenway could have walked away when the Vikings asked him to take a pay cut to save themselves $3 million in salary-cap space in March 2015, but he agreed to have his base salary reduced from $7 million to $3.4 million. Last spring, he signed a one-year deal that called for $2.75 million in 2016. Greenway spent the last few seasons playing a reduced number of snaps and coming off the field on passing downs.

In an era where few players spend their entire career with one team, Greenway will be an expectation. That loyalty should come as no surprise given his background.

I was covering the Vikings for the Star Tribune in 2006 when Greenway was drafted. That summer I drove to Greenway’s hometown of Mount Vernon, S.D., to write a feature on him. Greenway had grown up in a farmhouse 5 miles from the center of Mount Vernon (population 477) and his father, Alan, said that young Chad had learned the meaning of competition from his two older sisters.

“Those girls used to whale on him,” Alan said. “Somebody would come out bawling or screaming or something. You knew something happened.”

Chad, who played 9-man football in high school, also was kept busy with chores around the farmhouse and early in his career would continue to return home to help in the offseason.

Alan and his wife, Julie, were as down to earth and as nice as anyone could be as they told a reporter stories about their son. Listening to Alan, it was clear that while his kid was going to make millions of dollars, Chad wasn’t going to get any special treatment around his house just because he was a pro football player.

Chad hadn’t kept it a secret that 2016 almost certainly would be his last season and that became obvious after the Vikings’ victory over the Chicago Bears in their regular-season finale at U.S. Bank Stadium. Greenway gave an emotional postgame speech to his teammates and was seen surrounded by family and friends outside the locker room.

The sad part was you knew Chad’s one regret had to be that his father could not be part of the day. Alan had died two years earlier, at the young age of 56, after battling leukemia.

Chad addressed the media in the postgame interview room that usually is reserved for coach Mike Zimmer, quarterback Sam Bradford and maybe a star of the game.

“For me it was a day that I cataloged in my memory from the moment I got up to obviously now and enjoyed every minute of it,” Greenway said that day. “That has been my plan since day one of the season. … My plan was to enjoy every moment of this season and let the chips fall and make the decision in a few weeks. That’s what I’m going to do.

“I can tell you I enjoyed every minute of it. I enjoyed every minute with my teammates. This business is so much about relationships and people and teammates and coaches. You don’t realize that until you think about, ‘This could be it.’ Then you start really thinking about it.

“We are going to take some time and officially decide what we are going to do. … I think now I just need some time to get away and my wife and I can make a decision. There’s no coming back in this league. It’s final. I want it to be on my terms and that’s the way I want to do it.”

Greenway will finish his career having appeared in two Pro Bowls (2011 and 2012) and ranked fourth among the Vikings’ all-time leading tacklers, trailing only Studwell, Matt Blair and Jeff Siemon. Greenway’s 18 sacks are third all-time among Vikings’ linebackers — behind Blair (23) and Ed McDaniel (20.5) — and his 11 interceptions are tied for fifth.

Greenway also became known for his off-the-field work in Minnesota and was named the Vikings’ Community Man of the Year in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

The fact Greenway is retiring, and Peterson is likely to sign elsewhere, will leave defensive end Brian Robison as the only remaining member of the Vikings’ 2009 team that went to the NFC title game.

Before his last game with the Vikings, Greenway was the final player introduced and was shown on the scoreboard near the end of the game for fans to give him a nice sendoff.

“I’m usually the guy that runs out as fast as I can but said, ‘I’m going to take this chance to soak it up a little bit,’ so I thought about those things,” Greenway said. “All the things you know you’re going to miss when you’re done you wanted to cherish and I’ve done that since even training camp. I somehow found a way to enjoy training camp. That’s kind of been my philosophy throughout the year.”

Although he and his family won’t be going anywhere, Greenway will get one last chance to say goodbye on Tuesday.

The post Zulgad: Greenway will finish where he started and that comes as no surprise appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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