GREEN BAY, Wis. — Greg Jennings may be entering his final few games with the Green Bay Packers, and the two-time Pro Bowl, soon-to-be-free-agent wide receiver knows it.
“Sometimes you look on the wall and you see a lot of writing,” Jennings said Wednesday in the locker room. “And it’s hard to ignore that writing as a player. Because you never want to get caught off guard. I wouldn’t be doing my job as a father, as a husband, if I’m naive and not communicating these things with my family and preparing them for what potentially could be.
“The writing is on the wall. I’m not going to walk by it and act as if it’s not there.”
Jennings was referring to the fact the Packers organization has not been retaining many of its veteran players in recent years. General manager Ted Thompson allowed 31-year-old center Scott Wells — who was Green Bay’s best offensive lineman in 2011 — to leave in free agency last offseason, and let 30-year-old defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins go the year before despite coming off a seven-sack year.
Jennings will turn 30 early next season.
“At the end of the day, the only thing an organization really owes you is a paycheck. That’s it,” Jennings said. “That is absolutely it. When you get raw and uncut about it, the only thing they really owe you is a paycheck. And they can stop that if they want to.
“It’s a sensitive subject, a sensitive topic to talk about, but the reality is, we’re going to have to cross that bridge at some point.”
Jennings, a second-round pick in 2006, has been with the Packers for all seven years of his NFL career. Though Green Bay has already locked up the NFC North and therefore at least one home game in the playoffs, Jennings is well aware that his last regular-season game at Lambeau Field could be this Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.
“I’m like, man, it’s a real possibility that could be the case,” Jennings said. “Whenever that last game is, I’m definitely going to take my time walking around the stadium and giving high-fives to fans just in case, because I don’t know.”
It’s possible the Packers could place the franchise tag on Jennings for next season — at a price of approximately $10 million — and keep him around for one more year. But Jennings was adamant about how much he does not want that to happen.
“There’s nothing good about it,” Jennings said of the franchise tag. “You don’t see Wes Welker smiling about it.”
Welker, the 31-year-old New England Patriots wide receiver, was signed with the franchise tag for this season for $9.5 million.
“You want your job to have some sense of sustainability, some foundation where you can just sit your family and know you’ll be somewhere for a certain amount of time,” Jennings said. “Well, franchise tags give you one year. So it’s like, ‘OK, we’ve got one year.’ Who knows? I’ll be in the same position talking about contract situation all over again. It’s just not clear.
“It’s not in the best interest of the player to be in that position.”
Jennings is having by far the worst statistical and most injury-riddled season of his career. He’s missed eight games with a groin injury that later required abdominal surgery and has just 21 catches for 201 yards and one touchdown.
One month after surgery, Jennings returned to the field on Dec. 2 and has repeatedly said he’s been 100 percent healthy. But in the three games since coming back, he’s totaled only nine receptions for 123 yards with no touchdowns.
“With the nature of the position and the guys that we have, it’s not uncommon that that’s going to take place a game here, a game there, where guys are going to be left out, so to speak,” Jennings said. “It has happened before. It’s just under the microscope now because I’m coming back, contract year, everybody wants to see ‘Oh, how is he going to respond?’ All this stuff.
“I’m excited about the position I’m in. I’m excited to be back playing. There was a time when there was a possibility I wasn’t even going to be able to step back onto the field this year. So I’m just excited to be back out there.”
But Jennings, who also had to sit out three games at the end of last season with a knee injury, is trending in the wrong direction for a player who’s looking to get a multi-year, big-money contract this offseason.
“You’re not going to get those 10-, 11-, 12-target games; it’s just not going to happen,” Jennings said. “I’ve made plays in the past. My resume isn’t the thinnest. It’s pretty filled up with plays that I’ve made over my career. But is there room for improvement? Absolutely. Do I feel like I can get better and continue to grow? Absolutely.”
When asked if he believes he’s accomplished enough over his career — a career that has included three 1,000-yard seasons — to show teams what he’s capable of, Jennings said, “I would hope so.”
“It’s like being married: Sometimes you have to step back, and sometimes something has to happen for you to appreciate one another even more,” Jennings said. “It doesn’t have to be drastic, I’m not saying it has to be, ‘I leave and now they appreciate me,’ but I don’t know.
“You just appreciate things more sometimes, even when they’re gone. I can’t control it. They (the Packers’ front office) have more control than I do.”