Vikes lock up Greenway for next 5 years with new deal
By Dave Campbell
AP Sports Writer
EDEN PRAIRIE -- Chad Greenway called his parents at their South Dakota farm and told them about his new five-year contract with the Minnesota Vikings.
His mother was happy. They won't have to buy new jerseys for the family, she re-minded him, because he won't be an unrestricted free agent. Greenway's parents were also pleased, of course, that he'll continue to play close to home. This celebratory conversation didn't last much longer, though.
"She said she needed to let me go and go rake some hay," Greenway said. "Whatever. She's always busy."
When the Vikings revealed Greenway's extension after practice on Monday, the 28-year-old former first-round draft pick stayed true to form -- and to his roots -- by crediting his parents for teaching him priorities and perspective and profusely praising the organization for the way it has treated him since he came in 2006.
"To make an NFL career work for you and be financially set is amazing," Greenway said.
The Vikings didn't disclose the terms, but the St. Paul Pioneer Press, citing a person with direct knowledge of the deal, reported that it's worth $41 million including $20 million guaranteed. The contract runs through the 2015 season and should create more space under the salary cap for 2011.
"You've got to sell a lot of feeder pigs to make that kind of money," Greenway said, repeating what Tom West, the team's assistant director of public relations and a fellow former farm kid, told him. "That's a lot of hours in the barn."
The Vikings tagged Greenway in February as their franchise player, essentially a one-year contract that would've paid him more than $10 million this season to keep him off the market for another year. He and his agent, Marvin Demoff, could've held out for open bidding next March but Greenway said he didn't want to leave.
"I just can't say enough about how highly I hold the organization. You hear a lot of bad stories around the league, and I have nothing bad to say about these guys," said Greenway, who has led the team in tackles in each of the last three years. "They have always been good."
Head coach Leslie Frazier took over as the defensive coordinator in 2007, Greenway's first season in action after a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee knocked him out of his rookie year. Playing in a 4-3 scheme at the strong side linebacker spot, Greenway doesn't collect as many sacks as others do in the 3-4 defense. He once, however, had three takeaways in a game -- two interceptions and a fumble recovery against Detroit in 2009 -- and has the quickness and awareness to make an impact on the game.
"He can stay on the field on third down and cover tight ends man-to-man. He can drop in zone coverage. There are times when we are bringing him as a blitzer as well," Frazier said, adding: "You want him to be a Pro Bowl player here in Minnesota as opposed to somewhere else."
Frazier even said Greenway told him he'd like to lead the league in interceptions by a linebacker one season. He's an example of a player who has steadily improved throughout his career, from starting in nine-man football in high school to arriving at Iowa as a skinny quarterback and safety to becoming a confident leader and a surer tackler in recent years with the Vikings.
"Something has always been there -- just a burning desire to always want to be better," Greenway said. "I think it started right when I was little, and I wanted to be in the NFL. Nobody every scoffed at you, especially in the middle of South Dakota. ... I wasn't gifted with the most physical ability, but I try to work with what I have and make it stand out."
NOTES: Frazier said rookie Christian Ponder will probably be the No. 2 QB behind Donovan McNabb, with Joe Webb as the No. 3. The NFL relaxed its rule on the use of a No. 3 QB, allowing his entry in the game at any time while raising the game-day number of active players from 45 to 46. Previously, the No. 3 QB could only come in when the first two guys got hurt. That makes Webb, an elusive runner who played some wide receiver in college, an ideal fit for that spot. Frazier said the Vikings are experimenting with ways to use Webb in certain sets and plays. "It's just a matter of whether we want to do it now or two weeks from now ... but we want to utilize his gifts," Frazier said. ... Jamarca Sanford will start at SS, Frazier said, but Tyrell Johnson will rotate in at that spot as well. ... Every player on the active roster practiced Monday, including TE Visanthe Shiancoe, who first strained his hamstring Aug. 8 and aggravated the injury Aug. 23. He didn't play in any preseason games, but Shiancoe said his return was delayed because the team was being cautious. "I'm about 100 percent right now, so I'm good to go," he said. ... The Vikings signed eight players to their practice squad Monday: WRs Emmanuel Arceneaux and Stephen Burton, TE Allen Reisner, FBs Matt Asiata and Ryan D'Imperio, RB Caleb King, OL Chris DeGeare and DE Cedric McKinley. DeGeare was in the running for a starting spot at RG before Anthony Herrera proved he was recovered from knee surgery, until being let go Saturday. DeGeare cleared waivers, however, and was brought back.
Vikings waive veterans Cook, Dugan, Farwell
The Vikings waived offensive lineman Ryan Cook, tight end Jeff Dugan and linebacker Heath Farwell Saturday, three vested veterans who've been valuable backups for several seasons.
The Vikings reduced their active roster to 53 players for the regular season before the NFL's deadline on Saturday afternoon, and they chose youth and potential over experience and stability when determining their depth at a handful of positions. They cut 26 players and placed linebacker Jasper Brinkley on season-ending injured reserve.
The Vikings were off for the weekend and unavailable for comment. In a statement distributed by the team, head coach Leslie Frazier said he's "excited about the makeup and character" of the roster and said it was "extremely difficult" to inform the waived players of their fate.
"It's especially hard when they are veterans," Frazier said, adding: "They are good people and good players, and we wish them the best in the future."
The only starting position left unsettled at the end of the preseason was at strong safety, where Tyrell Johnson and Jamarca Sanford have been competing. Frazier said on Thursday night the coaching staff was still evaluating them.
But there were several up-in-the-air spots on the second team, creating a number of intriguing situations complicated by salary cap numbers. Frazier and vice president for player personnel Rick Spielman made it clear their desire to be competitive by trading for quarterback Donovan McNabb instead of turning the offense over to rookie Christian Ponder or project Joe Webb.
When it came to backups, however, upside largely won out.
After starting at right tackle for two seasons, Cook was a reliable utility man for the last two, capable of playing any of the five spots on the line in a pinch. The Vikings kept 10 offensive linemen, but Cook and Chris DeGeare, a fifth-round draft pick last year, were let go. Two holdovers from last year's practice squad, guard Seth Olsen and tackle Patrick Brown, made the team. So did a pair of rookies, tackle DeMarcus Love and center Brandon Fusco, a sixth-round draft pick from Division II Slippery Rock.
Rookie Allen Reisner, undrafted out of Iowa, made the team instead of Dugan as the fourth tight end. Farwell was also beaten out by undrafted rookie Larry Dean from Division II Valdosta State.
Spielman, in a statement released by the team, remarked about the young players who "made strong impressions" throughout the preseason.
"They earned a spot on our roster, and we will count on them to contribute this season and help us accomplish our goals," Spielman said.
Farwell, a special teams standout who was to make $1.75 million this season, hurt his hamstring in training camp and thus became a casualty of the slim space under the salary cap.
With Brinkley out following hip surgery, Dean and another major special teams contributor, Kenny Onatolu, are the only pure backup linebackers currently on the roster, though defensive end Everson Griffen has been playing both positions. Farwell made the roster as an undrafted rookie in 2005 and was a Pro Bowl pick in 2009 for his performance covering kicks.
The other vested veteran waived by the Vikings was defensive end Stylez G. White, who signed with the team less than two weeks ago. He had 24 sacks over the last four seasons with Tampa Bay. White was a former University of Minnesota standout who played then with the given first name Greg.
This wasn't a bad day for former Gophers, though. Cornerback Marcus Sherels, an undrafted long shot last year who played his way onto the practice squad, made the team as a backup and a punt returner. The Vikings kept 11 players in the secondary, including six cornerbacks.
The spot for Sherels opened up when wide receiver Jaymar Johnson was let go.
Also on the long list of cuts were defensive ends David Akinniyi and Cedric McKinley; running backs Tristan Davis, Alexander Robinson and Caleb King; guard Byron Isom; cornerbacks Devon Torrence, Cord Parks and Tony Carter; safety Ryan Hill; wide receivers Emmanuel Arceneaux, Juaquin Iglesias and Stephen Burton; fullbacks Ryan D'Imperio and Matt Asiata; linebackers Ross Homan and David Herron; offensive lineman Thomas Welch; and defensive tackle Tremaine Johnson -- another former Gophers player.
With DeGeare and D'Imperio gone, the Vikings have only four of their eight draft picks from 2010 left on the roster. Nine of their 10 draft picks from this year made the team, with practice squad candidate Ross Homan, a linebacker from Ohio State, the only one let go. Homan has been sidelined by a concussion.
The Vikings will have to make another cut in two weeks when defensive tackle Kevin Williams returns from his two-game suspension stemming from a 2008 positive test for a banned weight-loss drug that led to a lengthy court fight between Williams, some other players and the league.
Letroy Guion will start in place of Williams for the regular season opener on Sept. 11 at San Diego.