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Lunch Break, September 12: Greenway Reinvents Himself, Hard Work Pays Off For Ellison

As a nine-year veteran, linebacker Chad Greenway has pretty much seen and done it all, but this year he's had to do things a little differently. With a brand new coaching staff and completely different approach, Greenway has learned to do things differently as well, as Star Tribune's Matt Vensel profiles:

In his nine years with the Vikings, the veteran outside linebacker has grown accustomed to not getting accustomed to things. Such is life in the NFL. But he hadn't experienced changes quite as sweeping as this, and he knew he could get swept up in it, too.

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Still, it stung when the Vikings, the only NFL team he has ever known, approached him in the offseason and told him to take a pay cut or take a walk. He had a choice — buy in or get out.

"Obviously, at first you feel disrespected. You give so much to an organization and you feel like you've earned the right to continue to play at that contract you signed," said Greenway, whose salary was reduced by $1 million this season to $5.5 million. "But the reality is that this business is a tough business. It's certainly dog-eat-dog. So you just have to continue to swallow your pride and keep playing and not make it about yourself.

"The only person who really cares about my ego is me. My family, my kids, nobody else does. It's more about doing the right thing for my family, the right thing for this organization and the right thing for my career — and that was to stay here and start anew with this staff."

Trading $1 million for a sizable chip on his shoulder, Greenway showed up at Winter Park this spring eager to prove to Mike Zimmer's coaching staff and the Vikings front office that he is still capable of playing at a high level. Greenway knows there are no guarantees beyond this season, but he is hopeful that playing in the new head coach's aggressive defensive scheme will help rejuvenate his career.

"I tried to make it a positive for me. A new staff, a new opportunity," Greenway said. "The biggest thing is it's going to become what I make of it. Just take it as an opportunity and learn something new and reinvigorate myself in my ninth season."

Greenway, an unquestioned leader for the Vikings, has provided an example for the rest of the team as to how to change and adapt to be a successful player and teammate in the ever-changing NFL.

As the Vikings enter Week 2 with an impressive 34-6 victory under their belt, many players are receiving praise for the win, but there is one deserving Viking who isn't – Rhett Ellison. And he could not care less.

ESPN Ben Goessling writes about Ellison and his lunch pail approach to his job:

*The noise -- a mechanical ker-chunk as Rhett Ellison slams his shoulder into the blocking sled -- has occupied a familiar place in the soundtrack of Minnesota Vikings practices for the last three years. The tight end makes a significant part of his living off the inglorious task of blocking defenders, and either before or after practice, Ellison is often all alone on the field, going over the steps of his dance with the sled.

"If you're ever out here early to practice, you'll notice he's the first one out here -- all the time," tight ends coach Kevin Stefanski said. "I think that's not an accident. I think that's something that, he's very serious about doing the little things, working on his techniques. You can't fake that. That truly is him."*

*It's been him since he was a kid, getting his first taste of sports while playing rugby in his New Zealand schoolyard and learning the game through football drills with his father Riki -- a former linebacker and three-time Super Bowl winner with the San Francisco 49ers. Ellison, whose great uncle Thomas was the first captain of the All Blacks national rugby team and whose rugby-playing relatives still tell him "football is for pansies," learned one of the secrets to the game is embracing its gritty side. He didn't think he'd be drafted until the Vikings selected him in the fourth round of the 2012 draft, doesn't know that Pro Football Focus calls him one of the most underrated players in the league and doesn't particularly seem to care about the attention he's beginning to receive for how well he performs his arduous role.

Ellison seems to have found a perfect fit as Norv Turner's utility knife, lining up as a blocking tight end, motioning into the backfield as a H-back and breaking three tackles to turn a tight end screen into a 22-yard gain after the Rams' defense seemed to forget about him late in the Vikings' 34-6 victory on Sunday. He's only in the third year of his rookie deal, making just $570,000 this year, but Ellison's value to the Vikings might never have been higher.

"He's somebody that is tough, does things the right way, does the things that Coach [Mike] Zimmer talks about [as being] important to winning," said Stefanski, who's in his first year coaching tight ends after previously serving as the Vikings' assistant quarterbacks coach. "It's been interesting to see it up close.*

Ellison may not show up on the stat sheet often, but you can bet he's making an impact for the Vikings offense weekly. 

Quick Hitters

  • Gerald Hodges is rising through the Vikings' ranks in his second year, via 1500 ESPN's Andrew Krammer.
  • Souhan: Vikings' Patterson has flair for dramatic without the drama.
  • Pionner Press's Chris Tomasson writes that Vikings rookie Anthony Barr's chance to chase down Tom Brady feels 'surreal'.
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