MANKATO, Minn.-While it's his 11th time doing this, it's not just another training camp for the Minnesota Vikings' Chad Greenway.
This might be the last time the 33-year-old Mount Vernon native makes the trek to Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minnesota, as a player, stays in the dorms and fights through another set of warm practices.
One thing is still clear: his passion for football and the Vikings is still there. He credited his health, the team's potential and the Vikings' new stadium as primary reasons on why he wanted to return to Minnesota for an 11th year after being a free agent for the first time in his career earlier this year.
"It's obviously a great opportunity for me to be back and be a part of the organization," Greenway said Sunday. "I'm excited to sign back for one more year and to help the team and to get as many wins as we can get."
Greenway said now is the time to lean on his background, one that was built on controlling what his approach to practice and preparing for a new season.
"I truly believe that one of the few things you get to choose in life are the attitude, effort and enthusiasm and I really do live that every day," he said. "It's a couple of things that take no talent. I try to get out of bed every day and put forward my best effort and some days that's not good enough. I just try to do that more days than (not) and you'll be in good shape."
This training camp will include yet another test for Greenway, who will battle nine other linebackers for one of five or six spots on the 53-man roster, which will be announced Sept. 3. All of those linebackers are between ages 22 and 27 and none of them have half the experience that Greenway has-five years or less to Greenway's 11 years.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer remarked Sunday that he likes the way the young linebacker group is coming along. At the same time, it was clear during the team's morning walkthrough practice that Zimmer and Greenway have built a special trust in each other, now in the coach's fourth season at the helm.
Zimmer said he typically doesn't have to give veterans like Greenway any extra motivation. They already know how the Vikings conduct their business. The two frequently consulted with each other during a walkthrough Sunday morning at Blakeslee Stadium, in which the defensive starters were on the field for less than 45 minutes.
"Most of the veteran guys have been through it and they've heard a lot of things, so a lot of times you can communicate with them a little bit better," Zimmer said. "What I'm trying to do, is when we bring guys in here, I'm trying to get them to understand how the Minnesota Vikings do things, how we prepare, how we work ... how we're on time, how we're good citizens on the field, how we want to represent the fan base. Sometimes with young guys, you have to be a little more stern with them so they understand."
Even with building a name and a reputation as a committed hard worker, Greenway said he knows his spot will have to be earned, adding "there's no charity in the NFL."
"Obviously, you have to come in with a new scheme and new system and to really buy into what he's doing needs a good level of trust," Greenway said of Zimmer's time with the Vikings. "At the same time, I have to continue to come in here and play at a high level to earn your spot."
Third-year player Anthony Barr and second-year linebacker Eric Kendricks figure to be Greenway's primary cohorts at starting linebacker. Edmond Robinson, who Zimmer was high on Sunday, and Emmanuel Lamar, a free agent from Zimmer's previous Cincinnati team, figure to push for Greenway's starting role.
Greenway said the younger linebackers are mentally tough and they want to improve, while also crediting their high character.
"Yes, they're good physically and they're young and spry and all of the things I once was but ... the mental aspect, that's the most amazing part of their game," Greenway said. "Just their want to be great not physically but mentally, which will give them an edge at the end of the season when they're worn down."
The career Viking Greenway said he's never taken for granted the fact that he's been in Minnesota his whole career, a mere five hours from where he grew up playing for Stickney/Mount Vernon in high school.
"The career just shakes out totally differently if I say, play in Jacksonville for 11 years, or somewhere else," he said. "Given the local support I've had, it's certainly been because I've played so close for all those years. It makes it so much easier for family to drive over, or friends to drive over four-and-a-half hours and take in a game. It gives me a chance to see so many more people because they're so close."
Greenway's face also lit up talking about U.S. Bank Stadium, which is the Vikings' new stadium in Minneapolis. The Vikings will play a pair of preseason games at the new 67,000-seat dome before a major debut on Sept. 18: hosting the Green Bay Packers in a nationally televised Sunday-night game. (Minnesota opens the season on the road at Tennessee Sept. 11.)
"It was certainly a factor. It's unique to play in all three stadiums, at the Metrodome, TCF (Bank Stadium) and now U.S. Bank Stadium," Greenway said. "Part of that decision was the team coming back, my health and playing in the new stadium. It's such a beautiful facility and the fact that it's going to bring so many cool events to the Twin Cities and being a resident of the Twin Cities now, it's so unique and pretty cool to have that."
Regardless of if it's his last season or not, Greenway said he's living out his wildest dreams, a local pro football career that has been an undoubted success.
"It's been a wild ride," he said Sunday. "You never think that starting in elementary football back at Stickney/Mount Vernon that you'd end here. That was the goal but it's surreal to think it's happened. It's taken a lot of work and luck but it's been pretty amazing."