GREEN BAY, Wis. — Greg Jennings sounds like a player who knows his days with the Green Bay Packers are over.
As the 29-year-old wide receiver and free agent-to-be cleaned out his locker Sunday, just 14 hours after the Packers’ lopsided playoff loss in San Francisco, Jennings seemed content with the increasingly likely scenario that he’ll be playing elsewhere next season.
He peeled back dozens of pictures of his family that had been placed below his nameplate inside the only NFL home locker room he’s ever known. There was a sense of finality in his body language, and, after everything had been packed up, Jennings’ words matched that.
“I’m going to play football,” Jennings said. “I’m going to train hard this offseason and be prepared to play football next year. That’s all I can control and that’s what I’ll do. That’s what I’m best at. And I’m excited for that.”
Jennings indicated on several occasions in recent months that he had his doubts about whether the Packers were going to re-sign him. With general manager Ted Thompson having not made any progress toward a new contract for Jennings, there isn’t much likelihood of it happening now.
“At the end of the day, you know the Packers are going to do what’s best for the Packers,” Jennings said. “And that’s not going to change whether you’re No. 4 (Brett Favre), No. 80 (Donald Driver), No. 85 (Jennings), No. 77 (Cullen Jenkins). That’s going to be the case.
“They’re going to do what’s best for the Packers and the organization. And as the other half of the businessman sitting down at that table, I have to do what’s best for myself and my family.”
The best thing for the Packers could be applying the franchise tag on Jennings, thereby signing him to a one-year contract for approximately $10 million. Jennings stated recently that he does not want that to happen, instead preferring to sign a long-term deal.
It’s not as if Green Bay is short on talented wide receivers. The Packers would still have this season’s leading receiver Randall Cobb and 2011 leading receiver Jordy Nelson, in addition to James Jones, who led the entire NFL in touchdown catches.
Jennings had several opportunities Sunday to utter the cliche line about wanting to return to Green Bay that most players in his position often do, but he opted not to each time.
“I’ll be willing to do what’s best for me and my family,” Jennings said. “That’s my stance on it.”
When asked what the most difficult part would be if this was his last day as a Packer, Jennings didn’t appear too heartbroken.
“I don’t know if there is a difficult part,” Jennings said. “Like I said, I’m excited for the future. Football is going to be football. I’m excited for that.”
Jennings, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, is coming off the worst season of his seven-year career. A groin injury that later required abdominal surgery kept him out for eight games. Even upon his return in Week 13, Jennings didn’t come close to matching the statistical production he had from 2008-10, when he was putting together three consecutive 1,000-plus-yard seasons.
“I’m sure there’s a lot that we can say that we could have done differently now that it’s over,” Jennings said. “To put my finger on it right now, I can’t do that.”
Despite finishing this season with only 36 receptions for 366 yards and four touchdowns, Jennings believes he played well enough to set up a strong market from other teams to sign him.
“I’m pretty convinced about that,” he said. “We’ll have to see.”
It’s possible that the Miami Dolphins, who are coached by former Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, could go after Jennings. That would pair Jennings up with 2012 first-round pick quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Perhaps the division-rival Minnesota Vikings will be interested in Jennings to bring in another weapon for young quarterback Christian Ponder and give the team a receiving threat in addition to Percy Harvin.
“It is what it is,” Jennings said. “I hope I get an opportunity to play football next year, which is pretty likely. So I’m excited to prepare and train for the 2013 season.”
Wherever Jennings winds up next season, the chances of it being in Green Bay seem slim. And, by the look and sound of it Sunday, Jennings appears to be more than fine with that.