GREEN BAY, Wis. — Mike McCarthy didn’t wait to be asked about Greg Jennings’ comments that the Green Bay Packers brainwash their players. Or, perhaps the head coach misunderstood the question from an out-of-town reporter. Either way, there was no denying that McCarthy arrived at his Thursday press conference ready to defend the organization from its former wide receiver without ever using Jennings’ name.
Jennings called it brainwashing. McCarthy had a different way of describing the way that the Packers run the team.
“I think it’s a product of your culture,” McCarthy said. “Every coach, every player, every support staff member, clearly everybody in football operations, understands the importance of the value of being a Green Bay Packer. That’s the way we operate, whether people like it or not. We do not do anything to jeopardize that. That’s number one.
“The brand name of the Green Bay Packers is something that all players are educated on. From that, the development of your individual brand, hey, go for it. As long as it doesn’t jeopardize the brand of the Green Bay Packers. That’s the only message I’ve given to our team on a consistent basis. Our guys are in tune with that.”
Jennings, who signed this offseason with the Vikings after seven years in Green Bay, continued taking shots at his old team by painting a much different picture than McCarthy did.
“When I came over here (to Minnesota), I kind of had, I was kind of brainwashed,” Jennings told KFAN Radio in Minneapolis on Wednesday. “There’s no ‘kind of’ to it. Being over in Green Bay, you’re brainwashed to think that anyone in the division is just tiers below.”
While with the Packers, Jennings did exactly what McCarthy said the franchise was fine with players doing. Jennings branched out beyond football and landed several sponsorships, some of which led to memorable, comedic commercials that elevated his personal profile.
Clay Matthews knows a bit about that. Green Bay’s star outside linebacker is also frequently seen on advertisements, as well as on television shows.
“With (Jennings’) case, obviously it didn’t end on agreeable terms,” Matthews said. “We’re very competitive, both the organization as far as winning and the players as far as winning, whether that’s on a personal level or as a team level. So it never sits right. Obviously we saw that with a former quarterback here (Brett Favre), so it’s something you deal with.”
Matthews, who signed an extension with the Packers this offseason that made him the NFL’s highest-paid player at his position, doesn’t feel any conflict in balancing the team with his own personal aspirations.
“My goals directly align with the team goals,” Matthews said. “You come here to win ball games and win championships. The way I do that is by getting ready each and every week, particularly with me to stop the run, get sacks, create picks, just be chaotic out there. I feel that fits directly in line. As long as you’re helping this team out, you’re fitting within the goals of this team. That’s my job, that’s my responsibility and I plan on continuing to do that.”
Jennings stated that the Packers would tell players “everything you know in Green Bay is the best; the best, the best, the best, and it’s like total brainwashing. I don’t think you open your eyes to what other teams have to offer unless you are in that position, and I was afforded this position.”
This is just the latest in the ongoing saga of Jennings finding ways to upset his former coach, former teammates and the fans who used to cheer for him. Jennings has previously called the Packers a “cookie-cutter” organization and said that he’s no longer “walking on eggshells” in Minnesota like he did in Green Bay. Jennings also began his time with the Vikings by not referring to Aaron Rodgers by name and later questioned Rodgers’ leadership.
Thursday wasn’t the first time that McCarthy decided to respond to Jennings.
“When you put on that purple, something happens to you,” McCarthy said July 25.
McCarthy was being lighthearted then. He isn’t now.
All of this has led to Packers fans officially turning on Jennings. FOX11 reported that a Green Bay-area business called The Jersey Store is giving away the remainder of its Jennings merchandise. More than 200 items are being handed out for free, including all of their No. 85 Packers jerseys.
One shopper told FOX11 that they might use the free Jennings jersey as a doormat, adding that they wouldn’t consider putting it in their dog’s bed because, “I like my dog too much.”
The store’s manager said that the owner felt Jennings “really stepped over the line with the brainwashing comment.”
Mark your calendars, NFL fans. The Packers face the Vikings in Minnesota on Oct. 27. Then, Jennings makes his much-anticipated return to Lambeau Field on Nov. 24.