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Greenway: Playing in NFL 10-plus years 'a dream'

A few hours after signing what likely will be his final contract in the NFL, Chad Greenway reflected on being a 33-year-old who has spent 10 years in professional football.

Mount Vernon native and Minnesota Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway shakes hands with Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman after signing a one-year contract for the 2016-17 season. (Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings)
Mount Vernon native and Minnesota Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway shakes hands with Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman after signing a one-year contract for the 2016-17 season. (Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings)

A few hours after signing what likely will be his final contract in the NFL, Chad Greenway reflected on being a 33-year-old who has spent 10 years in professional football.

Greenway has endured multiple knee surgeries. He's taken and delivered bone-crunching hits and has played through wrist, hand and rib injuries, among others.

When asked about the health effects of playing football for so long, Greenway acknowledged the implications but held no regrets in playing linebacker for a large portion of his life.

"It would have been a life unlived had I not lived my dream, that's for sure," the Mount Vernon native said Monday. "Clearly, there's health effects of playing football. Whether it be your ankle, knee, hip, those things and anything you're doing with your body for long periods of time - working in a factory line, you're farming, whatever you're doing - it's going to be hard on your body."

Due to concussions and other health effects of the game, more NFL players are retiring at a younger age than in the past. In 2015, there were 19 players younger than 31 who retired, which was the most kept on record in league history. Greenway, however, said he would "never change" his experiences.

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"Obviously, I would have never want to go through my life wishing I had played football, because that was my dream," he said.

The 2006 first-round draft pick from the University of Iowa will enter his 11th season in the NFL after signing a one-year contract with the same team that drafted him, the Minnesota Vikings. The terms of the contract were agreed upon while he was vacationing last week, and he officially signed Monday. The same day, Greenway told KFAN radio in Minneapolis, "This is going to be definitely my last ride for sure."

It's undoubtedly rare for a player to spend 10 years, going on 11, in the NFL with the same team as Greenway has done. But that was one of his career goals, something that was achieved when he re-signed with the Vikings this offseason.

He said a combination of factors played into his decision to return to the Vikings, rather than retiring and wrapping up his career.

First pointing to the Wild Card playoff loss, Greenway said it was tough to lose to the Seattle Seahawks in January. Tough, because the Vikings seemingly had the game won. That is until Vikings kicker Blair Walsh missed a 27-yard field goal with less than 30 seconds remaining.

Following the game, Greenway said "I just can't seem to end like this" and wanted "to go out differently."

He also pointed to his health, saying that he was able to have an injury-free season in 2015-16 and was able to "play a role that fit where I'm at in my career."

Greenway started 12 of 16 games last season and earned additional playing time due to injuries to other linebackers on the team. He finished third on the Vikings in total tackles last season and has accumulated 1,289 tackles in his career, fourth-best in franchise history behind linebackers Scott Studwell (1,928 tackles); Matt Blair (1,404) and Jeff Siemon (1,375).

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"Chad's valuable in a lot of different ways and it's not just on the field," Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said in February, via the Star Tribune. "I do think he can still play."

The Vikings were the winners of the NFC North Division last season, and the team's 11-5 regular-season record gave Greenway hope for another successful run this year. He said there is a wave of free agent signings and returning impactful players to lead the charge.

And, there was one other perk that made playing another season enticing: A new stadium.

U.S. Bank Stadium, capacity 73,000, is set to open in Minneapolis this year. The Vikings will play their first preseason game at the site on Aug. 28 against the Chargers.

Greenway explained now's the time of year to ramp up offseason workouts and preparing for the season. Many times in the NFL, veterans get cut in training camp, and Greenway acknowledged "there are young guys coming up trying to take your position."

"It's going to be difficult, but I'm confident enough in my abilities, not only in what I've done historically but what I can do this year," he said. "Now my preparation getting ready for training camp will be important. At the same time, we're a great, young football team and training camp will be competitive. It should be a lot of fun to see how good we can be as a football team."

Related Topics: MOUNT VERNON
Luke Hagen was promoted to editor of the Mitchell Republic in 2014. He has worked for the newspaper since 2008 and has covered sports, outdoors, education, features and breaking news. He can be reached at lhagen@mitchellrepublic.com.
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