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If Chad Greenway returns to Vikings, 2016 season would probably be his last

Chad Greenway is feeling healthy coming out of his 10th season and wants to return for an 11th. AP Photo/Greg Trott

DULUTH, Minn. -- In the moments after the Minnesota Vikings' 10-9 wild-card playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks, linebacker Chad Greenway held on to the hope of returning to the team with a new contract for one more season, to play another year with an ascending team, break in the Vikings' new stadium and hopefully write a better ending than an agonizing playoff loss.

Six weeks after the game, Greenway feels no different. He's planning to play in 2016, and if he's back for the Vikings' first year at U.S. Bank Stadium, Greenway anticipates he'll announce that the season will be his last.

"I think with the stadium opening and kind of being able to be a part of that, I think if I was able to come back and play, I’d announce that this is going to be it -- just kind of treat it that way," Greenway said at the Vikings Winterfest in Duluth on Friday. "I think it’s nice for my family, if I get that, to have some closure and go through the season knowing that might be it. It may not be in Minnesota; we don’t know the answer to that. But the reality is, I’ve told my kids I want to play and they’re excited about that and they want me to do it. And they’re going to have a harder time than me [when I'm done playing.]"

Greenway restructured his 2015 contract to return to the Vikings and played mostly in the team's base defense after years as a three-down linebacker. But he was on the field for all 16 games after an injury-plagued 2014 season. The smaller role, Greenway said Friday, helped reduce the toll of his 10th full season. And because of it, he's feeling good enough to return at age 33.

"I was able to stay healthy. It’s so critical and so hard to do in the NFL," Greenway said. "Of course you have the normal, nagging stuff, but to not have a major catastrophic one you’re dealing with, you know, at 32 years old, makes it so much more fun and so much easier to play at the level you’re playing at. If you go through another injury-plagued year like I had, if I had another one, two in a row, it’s like, 'OK, I’m done.' Your body would be talking to you. But to come through a healthy one, like, ‘Wow, I feel great. I could do this again.’ Again, I’m not going to be the guy that’s just hanging on to hang on. I want to be able to play and I want to be able to contribute. If I couldn’t do that, I wouldn’t be trying to come back."

As Greenway walked into the Vikings' first event in downtown Duluth on Friday, fans serenaded him with chants of "One more year!" He'll have to work out a new deal with the Vikings for that to happen; coach Mike Zimmer said after the season he wants Greenway back, and general manager Rick Spielman said last week he anticipated he'd talk to Greenway's agent, Marvin Demoff, several times before the league year begins.

"Obviously there’s a lot of business that has to happen for [a return] to come to fruition," Greenway said. "But you know, it’s great to hear the fans, obviously. They’re appreciative of my first 10 years and they’d like to see me finish here, I think. I definitely take pride in that, and it's definitely fun to hear it, obviously. It makes you feel good."