Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson, left, and coach Mike McCarthy talk during OTA practice at Clark Hinkle Field, Tuesday, May 21, 2013. H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette Media
With training camp on his mind, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy had no interest in getting into a war of words with his former receiver, Greg Jennings, who hasn’t been speaking highly of quarterback Aaron Rodgers lately.
So McCarthy opted for a bit of humor when asked about the comments Jennings, now with the Minnesota Vikings, made in a story that appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune this week.
“Well, you know, when you put on that purple, something happens to you,” McCarthy said jokingly during Thursday’s annual pre-training camp news conference. “I don’t know. Greg was a great player for us. We had a lot of great moments, and he was fun to coach.”
Jennings, who signed a five-year, $45 million contract with the Vikings in March, has taken shots at the Packers since his departure but took it to another level this week when he criticized Rodgers and questioned his leadership.
“A lot of times when you have a guy who creates that spotlight for himself and establishes that and takes a lot of that, it becomes so-and-so and the team,” Jennings said in an interview with the Star Tribune. “It should always be the team.”
“For me, I’m such a team person, I’m going to defer to my teammates,” Jennings continued. “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.”
In the interview, according to the Star Tribune, Jennings rarely referred to Rodgers by name but instead by his uniform number or as “the guy they have now.”
“Don’t get me wrong, ‘12’ is a great person,” Jennings said. “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. In actuality, we all have flaws.”
Rodgers wasn’t available for comment on Thursday, when Packers players underwent medical exams and testing in advance of today’s first training camp practice at 8:20 a.m.
It’s the third time in less than a year that Rodgers has been questioned by a player or someone connected to a player. Last season, agent Blake Baratz, who represents Packers tight end Jermichael Finley and former Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop (now with the Vikings), made similar comments.
Though Jennings and Rodgers appeared to have an amicable relationship, and Jennings was the Packers’ leading receiver in terms of either catches or yards (or both) from 2008-10, Jennings’ sister last season made disparaging comments about Rodgers on Twitter. Shortly after that, Rodgers categorized his relationship with Jennings as “great.”
McCarthy on Thursday was quick to defend his quarterback and his leadership skills.
“I think Aaron Rodgers’ leadership has continued to grow,” McCarthy said. “He obviously puts a lot of time and energy into it, and it’s really reflected in the little things that no one really sees. To me, that’s really the definition of a true leader, the ability to stack the individual moments with the individuals throughout not only the locker room but throughout the building, particularly in the football operations department.
“I just think it’s really an outstanding role of going about it. Now, everybody grows and hits some bumps and twists and turns along the way, but he is very committed, very in tune with what’s in the best interests of the football team. I’m very proud of him, just the way that he has taken that responsibility and feels that it will be greater than ever going into this season.”
— email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @RobDemovsky.