EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Chad Greenway's 10th is his second, as is Harrison Smith's fourth. Terence Newman's first is his seventh, but Captain Munnerlyn's seventh is his second.
Greenway, Smith and Munnerlyn are at the onset of their second seasons in the defensive system brought to Minnesota in 2014 by Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer and Defensive Coordinator George Edwards. Newman, who signed during free agency, played for Zimmer in Dallas (four seasons, 2003-06) and Cincinnati (two seasons, 2012-13).
The Vikings are in their second week of a progressive voluntary offseason workout program. In the first two weeks, players are only allowed to work with strength and conditioning coaches. That changes next week when some positional, non-contact work is allowed.
Rules allow teams with new coaches to hold a veteran minicamp, but that obviously wasn't an option for Minnesota this year. The Vikings, however, returned to Winter Park April 20 ready to build on previous experience.
"It's a lot better. First of all, one less minicamp. Second of all, your head is not swimming nearly as much as it was," Greenway said this week after a workout session that was open to the media. "You know what to expect now from this staff and what their expectations are, not only when you're playing but also in your playbook and how it's going to come at you. I'm just so much more comfortable in it after one year. I think we'll be moving a lot faster as we get going."
Greenway led the huddle and handled the defensive calls, and Smith was tasked with a similar leadership of the secondary last season.
"It's going well. I think everybody was ready to get back here and ready to get a jump on things," Smith said. "It's just trying to get better at something every day. I think, as far as going over plays and meetings, everybody knows the verbiage and how Coach Zim', what he means when he says certain things. We're starting at a more advanced process than we did last year."
Smith said the benefit of time allows players to "get used to the words coaches use to describe things and for you to speak like they speak."
"When they say something, it's kind of the way they describe your alignment or assignment on a play, that kind of triggers what you do," Smith said.
Newman already is making an impact with teammates who welcomed him to the squad.
"I've been in this defense for quite a while, so I know a lot of the ins and outs," Newman said. "That's pretty much it, and technique work, kind of what Zim' expects, pretty simple stuff."
Munnerlyn, who joined Minnesota in free agency last year after six seasons in Carolina, said he thinks the extra year will be a "big difference" because of the increased understanding.
"Everybody knows his focus and the things he wants," Munnerlyn said.
DECADE AS A VIKING:
Greenway, a first-round selection in 2006, said he's "certainly proud" to be returning for his 10th season after he and the Vikings reached terms for his return.
"Obviously, it's not something that many people can talk about, being in one place for 10 years," Greenway said, "not only having the staying power to be able to play at that level, to stay and have an organization want to back you for that long, but to be able to immerse myself in the community and continue to do that more and more and just knowing that we're going to be staying here post-football is nice to know."
Everson Griffen, who thrived in his first season as a starter with 12 sacks in 2014, said he's liked what he's seen in the weight room from teammates.
"We're starting off strong," Griffen said. "We're looking good, we're in meetings, working hard together as a team and we're just getting stuff started on the positive side. I'm just saying we're working hard. You can see if guys have been putting in the work in the offseason, guys are coming in more in shape and ready and more focused. We're all here for one thing, and that's to win games. That's going to be my speech the whole year. I'm here to win games and do my best on and off the field. "Everybody's looking good," Griffen added. "The strength and conditioning coaches have a good program for us, keeping us fast, keeping us strong and it's allowing us to have our opinions in the weight room. They take stuff and use what we tell them, too, so everybody's looking good. I see everybody coming in in shape. That's an A-plus when everybody come