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'Fail Mary' topic unavoidable for Jennings and Packers, who try to move on

Aug. 21, 2013
 
Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate and Packers safety M.D. Jennings (43) battle for the ball as time expires last season in Seattle.
Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate and Packers safety M.D. Jennings (43) battle for the ball as time expires last season in Seattle. / USA TODAY Sports
Officials offer conflicting signals on the last play of the Seattle Seahawks' 14-12 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sept. 24, 2012. / AP

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M.D. Jennings gets the question all the time.

The Green Bay Packers safety was one of the main players involved in a controversial loss to the Seattle Seahawks last season, when replacement referees ruled simultaneous possession in favor of Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate on a last-second Hail Mary pass from quarterback Russell Wilson.

It was Jennings who appeared to intercept the pass before Tate gained possession when the two players were on the ground.

The play helped get the NFL and its locked-out officials to come to an agreement for the next week, but it also has forced Jennings to address that night several times over the past year.

He’s even been asked by fans to autograph a picture of the moment and add inscriptions that include “Robbed” and “Screwed in Seattle.”

“All the time,” Jennings said when asked how often he’s questioned about the play. “It’s something that has stuck with me, unfortunately, but it’s something I’m trying to get over.

“You know, I don’t want to be remembered by that play. I just try to go out there and play football.”

Jennings said the play was addressed by the team after the game last season and that they moved on. He also doesn’t have any extra motivation to face Tate or the Seahawks in a preseason game Friday night at Lambeau Field.

“It’s not about Golden Tate or about the Seahawks,” Jennings said. “It’s about getting better as a team and getting ready for the regular season.”

Tate told reporters in Seattle on Tuesday that if he scores a touchdown against the Packers, he does not plan to do a Lambeau Leap.

“Oh no, they might shank me or something,” said Tate, who added that if he gets booed it’s a sign of respect. “I’m not doing that.”

Jennings isn’t the only one to be asked about the play.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said he can’t forget about it because he’s constantly being reminded by other people, while safety Morgan Burnett still receives some playful ribbing.

“You have your friends, your buddies, at home and they will bring it up,” Burnett said. “I find a way to give them a short answer and try to move on from it.

“Personally, that’s in the past. This is a new team. We are trying to build our new identity. I know the Seahawks are a very good football team, so it will be a good test to see where our football team is right now.”

Jennings doesn’t have time to worry about some play from last season. He’s locked in a training camp battle with second-year pro Jerron McMillian to start opposite Burnett.

Both players had their moments last season after Charles Woodson was injured against the St. Louis Rams in Week 7 and missed the rest of the regular season.

While reliable in coverage, neither could fill the play-making void left by Woodson and Nick Collins before him.

Jennings and McMillian combined for two interceptions.

“It’s always a learning curve,” McMillian said. “You just have to keep excelling and keep getting better at the things you need to get better at.

“Just being accountable and making plays. Play as fast as you can without making any mental errors. That’s the quickest way to get on the field. Make sure you know what’s going on.”

McMillian feels he has greatly improved since his first training camp last season. He simply was attempting to get a grasp of everything, including the playbook, back then.

A certain comfort level has set in this time around.

“I know a lot more,” McMillian said. “Your rookie year, they throw a lot at you. How much can you grasp and how quickly can you apply it?

“Now, you know what’s going on. You have a feel of how things go. Now, you need to take the next step.”

svenci@pressgazettemedia.com and follow him on Twitter @scottvenci.

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