GREEN BAY, Wis. — Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings finally found out what’s been nagging him during his slow recovery from a groin injury. After seeking a second medical opinion this week, Jennings was told that he has a rectus abdominis tear.
Jennings could have gotten by in the short term with pain-killer injections, but he is opting for surgery. The procedure will be performed by Dr. William Meyers in Philadelphia on Tuesday, and Jennings believes it will allow him to play again this season.
“The way (Dr. Meyers) described it to me was simply two people pulling on the end of a rope and it starts to fray,” Jennings said Thursday in the locker room. “And the more tugging, the more fraying, which means the more tearing occurs. That’s what I have going on.”
Jennings, a two-time Pro Bowl selection who is set to enter free agency in the offseason, would not give a timetable for his return. He has already missed four of the Packers’ seven games with the injury, and the team could be without both Jennings and fellow starter Jordy Nelson on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Nelson injured his hamstring in Wednesday’s practice, sat out Thursday and has already been ruled out for Friday. Jennings, however, can’t afford to rush back even if Nelson’s absence is extended.
“As far as the timeframe of how long the rehab and recovery will be, my body will tell me that,” Jennings said. “At the end of the day, it’s going to be determined whether I feel good or not is when I’m going to return back onto the football field.
“But not season-ending. Hopefully I can return before the season ends. We’ll see. But it’s not season-ending.”
Jennings was told that the surgery is an outpatient procedure that will only take 20-25 minutes and will allow him to be walking on his own immediately afterward.
Jennings hoped to play in the Packers’ upcoming game against the Jaguars, so he tested his injury by running off the field following Green Bay’s Week 7 win in St. Louis. That didn’t go so well.
“When I felt it grabbing at me, I knew something . . . before then I kind of knew something was going on,” Jennings said. “But it just triggered red flags that kind of went up.”
The 29-year-old has been told to continue doing cardiovascular workouts in a swimming pool, which will speed up his ability to get back on the field as soon as possible after surgery.
“I can make it worse, but the surgery will fix it no matter how bad it gets, if it gets worse,” Jennings said. “But in this short period of time, I doubt that I’ll make it worse.”
The injury initially occurred on the Packers’ final drive in a Week 1 loss to San Francisco. Jennings ran a deep pass route and then waved to the sideline as he gingerly walked off the field. He missed the team’s next game with what was described as a groin injury but then returned in Week 3. In Week 4 against New Orleans he aggravated it further while catching a touchdown pass. Jennings has not practiced or played in a game since then.
“In retrospect, you always wish you’d done things differently once it didn’t work,” Jennings said. “But had it worked out to where I was OK, then it’s like, ‘OK, it’s good that I came back.’ But since I wasn’t able to come back with a full recovery, obviously I wish I could have sat out, not came back in the Seattle game (Week 3) and taken more time and seen where I would have been from then.
“But the past is the past. You can’t live in the past, you can’t change the past, time keeps on ticking.”
Jennings’ future, however, is less clear. He was hoping to sign a lucrative contract extension with the Packers last offseason, but with no agreement in place, Jennings entered this season on the final year of his current deal.
After being named to two consecutive Pro Bowls in 2010 and 2011, Jennings has just 12 catches for 78 yards and one touchdown this season. With injuries clearly not giving Jennings an opportunity to display his skills, his value as an upcoming free agent is certainly dropping with each missed game.
“It’s kind of like a game of chess,” Jennings said. “You have to strategically know your next move, and you set your next move up, but I’ve definitely thought about it. Free agency will take care of itself. Hopefully I’ve put on film certain plays that I’m able to make and showcase my talents. That will take care of itself when the time comes.
“Right now, I have to take care of myself and do what’s best for me.”