EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Greg Jennings spent his first summer with the Minnesota Vikings talking mostly about his former team, the Green Bay Packers.
Jennings’ strange, sometimes veiled shots at Green Bay and his former quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, naturally blew up bigger than maybe even Jennings expected once national blogs took his comments and ran with them. Jennings referred to Rodgers as “No. 12” and wouldn’t say his name in one interview and also made a comment about being “brainwashed” in Green Bay, all comments Jennings said were taken the wrong way.
With his first game against the team he spent his first sevens NFL seasons with coming up this week, Jennings said he wishes he could have back some of the things he said.
“There was things said that if I could take back, I would,” Jennings said. “I would, I absolutely would. But I can’t, so I have to live life with the cards that I dealt myself and they’re the cards that are sometimes dealt, not of your own choice.”
Jennings said he is “embracing” his role with Minnesota, despite the Vikings being 1-5 and Jennings having just 24 catches for 327 yards this season. He also related overcoming his previous comments to crisis management.
“At this point, it’s behind me,” Jennings said. “There’s things that takes place in life that you wish didn’t happen, but you grow from it. I’ll use crisis for instance. If a crisis occurred in your life, you may have brought it upon yourself, but if you focus on just the crisis and not focus on how to overcome the crisis, you’re going to stay within the crisis. That’s kind of how I approach this situation.
“It’s a phenomenal organization. I had to make my departure. There were some things said that, man, if I could say it over again, I would have to reword it so that it could be conveyed a little differently. But they were said. I can’t focus on that. I have to focus on the now and who I am and where I am now. Have a lot of love for everyone in that locker room. I have no hatred for anyone. I know this is a rivalry, but I don’t hate anyone over there. The organization was great to me, fans were great to me and the guys continue to be great to me. I still have a relationship with those guys and I’ll forever have a relationship with those guys.”
On Green Bay’s side, the Packers avoided any more talk about their former receiver.
“I’m just focused on our guys,” Rodgers said on a conference call with Minnesota media. “We’ve got a lot of things to spend time thinking about, spend energy thinking about. Any of that stuff is not going to be one of them.”
Rodgers was asked if he’s going to seek out Jennings on Sunday.
“I’m just going to go through my preparation like I always do and if I see him after the game, I see him,” Rodgers said.
Green Bay knows Jennings is an unavoidable topic this week, though. The Packers put Jennings’ name on a list of topics in their team meeting on Wednesday, a chance for the coaches to show the players what might be asked about in the media during the week.
Coach Mike McCarthy said he doesn’t give the players any insight what to say, though.
“No, I just go through the topics,” McCarthy said. “They’re grown men. They can formulate their own opinions.”
McCarthy didn’t want to get into the topic of Jennings much, either.
“I’ve answered those questions,” McCarthy said. “I think things like that happen sometimes, people leave one organization and go on to the next, but I have positive memories of Greg and his family. He was an excellent player for us, great player for us and I wish him the best.”
Jennings made a highly publicized departure from Green Bay this season as a free agent, reportedly turning down offers to return to the Packers. He was courted by Minnesota in free agency and signed a few days after his time with Green Bay officially came to a close.
He signed a lucrative, five-year contract with the Vikings for $45 million to become the team’s long-coveted No. 1, outside receiver and help replace the production of Percy Harvin, who was traded to Seattle.
But with Minnesota’s quarterback spot being a constant rotation, the team’s improved receiving corps with Jennings hasn’t had the impact the Vikings expected.
“Not at all,” Jennings said about second-guessing his decision to sign with Minnesota. “It’s not just about football. It really isn’t. And for me, it took me, I didn’t really grasp that concept until I got over here and my relationship with God increased a lot more. It’s so much greater than football. But obviously, the reason why I’m here is because of football. I just want to be able to do what I can to help this team be successful and that’s really all I can do.”
Jennings, a two-time Pro Bowler with the Packers, is second on the team in catches and yards behind Jerome Simpson. Jennings had dealt with injuries his final few seasons with Green Bay but had four straight seasons of at least 67 catches and 949 yards with Rodgers at quarterback.
In his seven seasons with the Packers, Jennings had three different starting quarterbacks: Rodgers, Matt Flynn and Brett Favre. With Christian Ponder likely to start Sunday with Josh Freeman having a concussion, Jennings will have his third quarterback in as many weeks.
“Definitely been a challenge,” Jennings said of the quarterback rotation. “Any time you’ve had something that’s been a constant in your life and then a shift takes place and it’s no longer a constant, it’s going to take some adjustment. It’s all about how you approach it. The way I approach it is I have to be the best receiver for whoever’s taking the snaps and whoever’s throwing me the ball.”
Jennings knows Sunday night will be different and he said he won’t talk during the game with the defensive backs.
“No, I’m not a jawer,” Jennings said. “I don’t talk too much. I just play ball.”