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Greenway adapts to Coach Zimmer

Mount Vernon native Chad Greenway, middle, looks to make a tackle for the Minnesota Vikings against Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch, front-right, in a game Nov. 4, 2012, in Seattle. (AP file photo)

MINNEAPOLIS — Chad Greenway took a pay cut in the offseason to stay with the Minnesota Vikings for the upcoming 2014 season under new head coach Mike Zimmer.

The Mount Vernon native agreed to reduce his salary from $6.5 million to $5.5 million for the 2014 season to remain with the only team he has played for during his eight years in the NFL.

Greenway’s contract is now fully guaranteed for the 2014 season. The 31-year-old has two years remaining on his five-year, $40.6 million contract, which includes $20 million guaranteed. The outside linebacker’s $100,000 workout bonus is still a part of his contract.

In 2013, Greenway led the Vikings with 134 tackles and three sacks, while playing in all 16 games for a Vikings team that went 5-10-1.

Zimmer was hired in January to replace Leslie Frazier as the heach coach of the Vikings. As a veteran defensive coordinator, Zimmer will look to turn around a group that finished second to last in the league in total defense in 2013, allowing 397.6 yards per game. Defense will be key for the Vikings, with the team’s quarterback situation up in the air. Minnesota also plays in a division with Aaron Rodgers’ Green Bay Packers and the offensive weapons of Chicago and Detroit.

Greenway told Fox Sports North in an article published Friday that he has needed to go through some of the same growing pains as the younger players on the team, as he learns the new coaching staff’s defense.

“This is the first chance, really, for me to learn something completely new,” Greenway said in an interview with Fox Sports North Thursday. “Sometimes it’s even harder for me, because I have everything so ingrained over the years. It’s been a fun defense to start to learn, and we’ve just got to get good at it now.”

In Zimmer’s version of a 4-3 defense — four down linemen and three linebackers — Greenway’s responsibilities have been switched in practice from the strongside to the weakside and he has taken some snaps at the middle linebacker position in early offseason workouts for the Vikings, according to what Zimmer told Fox Sports North.

“I played a little bit of the middle today, and I have throughout this offseason. It’s just football. It’s about where you line up, what your role is and just fit in it,” Greenway told Fox Sports North. “Physically, I know I can do it, and mentally, it’s just working through that.”

The two-time Pro Bowl player has led the Vikings in tackles for six consecutive seasons and played most of last season with a fractured wrist. Zimmer thinks the adjustments for Greenway should go smoothly.

“He can fit in fine,” Zimmer told Fox Sports North. “He’s a good guy, he’s smart, he’s very conscientious. He’s a pro’s pro, but he should fit in very well.”

Zimmer added that he is keeping offseason workouts competitive for his linebackers and that included the veteran Greenway, whose position on the team has not been determined. Zimmer stated that Greenway’s status as the leader of the Minnesota defense is not going to change under the new coach.

“It’s important to him,” Zimmer told Fox Sports North. “That’s why he’s been a good player for a long, long time. If we had 90 of those kinds of guys, it would be good.”

Minnesota also returns linebackers Jasper Brinkley, who has taken the majority of the first-team reps at middle linebacker in the offseason, and Audie Cole, who started at middle linebacker for the team at the end of the 2013 season. Second-year linebackers Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti also figure to be in the mix, along with 2014 first-round pick Anthony Barr out of UCLA.

The Vikings open the 2014 preseason against Oakland at 8 p.m. Aug. 8 at TCF Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.