GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Just kidding!
The offseason comments from receiver Greg Jennings questioning former Packers teammate Aaron Rodgers’ leadership and whether the quarterback had become bigger than the team? Jennings, who signed with the archrival Minnesota Vikings in the offseason, said they were all made in jest.
What a coincidence — the Packers visit Minnesota on Sunday night in Jennings’ first game against his former teammates.
“It wasn’t meant to hurt anyone’s feelings,” Jennings said Wednesday in a conference call. “It was just really messing around initially and then everyone kind of blew it a little bit out of proportion.”
As if there weren’t enough story lines between the fierce NFC North rivals.
The Packers (4-2) are back atop the division following a three-game winning streak despite being riddled with injuries. The most serious one has been the neck injury to tight end Jermichael Finley, who coach Mike McCarthy said remained hospitalized Wednesday after getting hurt in the 31-13 win last weekend over the Browns.
The reeling Vikings (1-5) could be going back to Christian Ponder at quarterback after Josh Freeman reported to team headquarters this week with concussion-like symptoms following the 23-7 loss Monday night to the Giants.
But back to those thinly veiled shots at Rodgers.
“I probably took it a little too far,” Jennings said. “No, I was happy there. Obviously there’s things that go on throughout life that you wish would be different. But it is what it is. You have to roll with the punches.”
Jennings said repeatedly that he’s moved on. As a refresher, a couple lines from Jennings’ comments to the Star Tribune in July.
—”For me, I’m such a team person … I’m going to defer to the team, to the team, to the team. And I think when you reach a point where you’re not deferring any longer, it’s no longer really about the team.”
—”Don’t get me wrong, ’12’ is a great person … But when you hear all positives, all positives, all positives all the time, it’s hard for you to sit down when one of your teammates says, ‘Man, come on, you’ve got to hold yourself accountable for this.’ It’s hard for someone to see that now because all they’ve heard is I’m doing it the right way, I’m perfect.”
For his part, Rodgers is focused on his current teammates.
“With the way my life is right now and with my job as a leader on this football team and quarterback,” Rodgers said, “I just don’t have the energy to spend time thinking about those things.”
Not that it’s completely out of his mind. It’s just not a priority.
“I didn’t say anything about forgetting. I just said focusing,” Rodgers said. “It’s about what you should spend energy focusing on and thinking about and worrying about.”
Jennings was Rodgers’ top target in the quarterback’s first four years as a starter, going over the 1,000-yard mark from 2008-2010 and coming up just short in 2011. He finished with a career-low 366 yards last season after missing half the year with a torn lower abdominal muscle. Jennings’ 205 receptions in Green Bay are third on the franchise’s career list, behind Donald Driver (363), who retired after last season; and Antonio Freeman (213).
Asked about Jennings, McCarthy wished his former receiver well and said it would be fun to compete against him.
James Jones lightheartedly hoped Jennings would be held to “three catches for three yards this week, we get the win and everybody stays healthy.” Jones, who missed the Browns game with a knee injury, didn’t officially practice Wednesday though McCarthy said the receiver went through “some on-the-field work” as part of his rehab.
According to Jennings, leaving Green Bay in part allowed the rest of the receiving corps to grow.
“If I had stayed, I could have been overshadowing some of those guys … not allowing them to flourish the way that I know that they’re capable of flourishing,” Jennings said.
He hasn’t reached out to Rodgers. Jennings said he hoped that he knew that “I’m not one of those guys that wishes ill will on anyone or tries to stand out and be apart from the team. … I know and you guys know that he’s a great quarterback. He’s the best player in the game.”
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