EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Chad Greenway was picked as an injury replacement for the Pro Bowl last season. He was credited with a career-high 174 tackles. That certainly wasn't his best year, though.
The Minnesota Vikings struggled often on defense in 2011, and Greenway was a part of that. He didn't force any turnovers, and the back seven was often exploited in the passing game.
Through three games this season, though, Greenway has been the disruptive, relentless outside linebacker the Vikings are paying him to be. He's had a few lapses in coverage, but Greenway has been all over the field. He had two sacks, two quarterback hurries and 16 tackles in last week's upset of San Francisco. The best part about that game for Greenway was that his father was in the seats watching.
"To just get the win and be able to have a lot of fun playing the game that I love and that I grew up around him loving, that was huge," Greenway said.
Alan Greenway has been fighting leukemia this year, an illness that grew serious enough for Greenway to miss many of the team's offseason practices. The South Dakota farmer's condition has improved, however, and he's "doing as well as can be expected," Greenway said.
"There's a long, tough road," he said. "But right now he's doing well."
Greenway has hogged the defensive highlights before, particularly in 2009 when he had three interceptions and three fumble recoveries for the NFC runner-up team. He had 5½ sacks in 11 quarterback hurries in 2008. Greenway and the Vikings would agree, though, that there's the potential for more production and impact over the course of an entire season.
That game against the 49ers, considering their status as Super Bowl favorites, was one of those performances that suggested he can be that standout the Vikings need in the middle of their defense.
"I knew I wasn't going to leave anything left in the tank, that's for sure. Not that I ever really do. I just want it to be special. Nobody in this building knew that he was going to be there besides me, but I'm just so happy that we played that kind of football on a day that, for me, was important," Greenway said.
Since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee while covering a kickoff in his first preseason contest as a rookie in 2006, causing him to miss the whole year, Greenway has played in every game for the Vikings.
"His leadership on the sideline, on the field making big plays, that's what we need from him," coach Leslie Frazier said.
His teammates noticed.
"He was flying around making plays. That's what we need," defensive end Jared Allen said. "He's a huge part of our back end. When he's running around and hitting people and you can force guys to be one-dimensional, it's awesome. You just watch the film: He was everywhere. It was great to see."
With a young starter in the middle in Jasper Brinkley, Greenway's experience and confidence has become even more important.
"Playing next to Chad is great. He's one of the top strong-side linebackers in this league," Brinkley said. "I've never seen a guy who has the motor that he has. For me to have him beside me, it definitely pushes me."
NOTES: The Vikings waived TE Allen Reisner to make room on the 53-man roster for WR Jerome Simpson, whose NFL suspension ended this week. ... LB Erin Henderson missed practice again. He still hasn't been cleared to return to the field after his concussion suffered in the Sept. 16 game at Indianapolis. Frazier didn't rule out Henderson being able to play this Sunday, but he'd probably have to practice on Friday. ... QB Christian Ponder was added to the injury report with a neck issue. His participation was limited, but TE Kyle Rudolph's quadriceps improved enough for him to take part in some of practice. Frazier said Rudolph "moved well."
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