Logging more tackles than any other player since 2011 is outstanding.
Doing so in today’s NFL makes what Minnesota Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway has accomplished even more impressive.
The defensive environment in which Greenway notched 261 stops in his past 27 games is different than just a few years ago, let alone during previous generations like when his franchise fielded the vaunted Purple People Eaters in the 1960s and 1970s.
The biggest change stems from the Collective Bargaining Agreement reached between the NFL and its players in summer 2011. New rules have reduced the number of full-contact practices that can be held, especially late in the season.
This was designed to improve player health and safety, but a side effect is sloppier defense on game days.
"You wonder why tackling isn’t what it used to be? Look no further than the new CBA," Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier told FOXSports.com from inside his office at team headquarters. "It’s hard to teach tackling and fundamentals without pads on. You only get a chance to do it once a week."
Greenway points to the trend toward more wide-open NFL offenses and the speed of some receivers and running backs that can leave a defender grasping for air.
"It’s no longer the middle linebacker taking on a block, the running back comes over the top, and you square up and tackle," Greenway told FOXSports.com. "Very rarely do you get squared-up where you can properly tackle a guy.
"Now, you’re in space. Guys are fast. They’re moving and catching the ball. It’s more about getting the guy down. Some guys are better at it than others."
Greenway may be the best of them all.
The seven-year veteran enters the FOX America’s Game of the Week between Minnesota and Green Bay (1 p.m. ET Sunday) with 107 credited tackles, which ranks second in the league behind New England linebacker Jerod Mayo’s 112 stops. Greenway had the NFL’s third-highest tackle total in 2011 with 154. That translates to an average of almost 10 stops a game for more than 1 1/2 seasons.
"He’s amazing with what he does," said Frazier, a former NFL cornerback and defensive coordinator before becoming Minnesota’s head coach late in the 2010 season. "There are only a few others around the league that just have that innate ability to make those plays even though they don’t get the chance to practice what they do as often with pads on. It’s hard to mimic."
Greenway tries to compensate for less hitting in practice through other drills and attention to detail. After games in which he missed tackles, Greenway will hit a blocking sled on his own to make sure his eye level and footwork are correct.
Greenway will need to play at his best Sunday against Green Bay’s high-powered passing attack orchestrated by star quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Greenway said he doesn’t even feel like a linebacker when facing the Packers because of their frequent use of multi-receiver packages, including those featuring a fleet group of tight ends led by Jermichael Finley.
"A hard thing for me is that you’re playing in space against guys you’re really not supposed to be out there with," Greenway said. "You’ve got to really play fundamentally well — move your feet and play like a DB for a game."
Greenway also said it’s important to remember that not every tackle will result in style points even if stopping an opponent means "grabbing a foot and holding on because you’re in space and maybe your help is not close. Grab a vital (body) part they can’t move forward without."