Minnesota Vikings receiver Greg Jennings says he was joking when he made critical comments of former teammate Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers during the offseason.
In his first interview with media who cover the Packers since he signed with the Vikings in free agency, Jennings said Wednesday that all of his comments over the summer were a joke in response to Rodgers saying, “Who?” when asked about Jennings on stage at the Wisconsin Sports Awards last spring.
In an interview last summer Jennings said Rodgers sometimes put himself above the team and didn’t always hold himself accountable for mistakes.
But in the conference call with reporters in Green Bay – the Packers play at the Vikings on Sunday night – Jennings said he was tweaking Rodgers for his “who?” comment. Jennings also said he was not masking unhappiness with the organization during his seven seasons with the Packers.
“Probably took it a little too far,” Jennings said of the joke. “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. Obviously, on my end of it, I feel like there were a lot of things that were kind of manipulated to appear a lot worse than what I was intending for them to be. That’s just, as a player, you have to watch what you say, so you learn and you grow.”
Rodgers, many of Jennings’ former teammates and coach Mike McCarthy clearly did not interpret Jennings’ comments as jokes.
Among Jennings’ comments for instance, was an interview in July when he said: “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 tells Dan Wiederer of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “It should always be the team. ...
“For me, I’m such a team person, I’m going to defer to my teammates. 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,” Jennings said of Rodgers. ”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.”
But when asked about that at the start of his teleconference on Wednesday, Jennings said he was joking. He also said that he has spoken to some of his former Packers teammates about the comments but not Rodgers.
“I was just really razzing a little bit with Aaron, just knowing how he is and just going back and forth with some of the guys,” Jennings said. “It wasn’t meant to hurt anyone’s feelings. It was just really messing around initially and then everyone kind of blew it a little bit out of proportion. I have the most respect for that organization. I had my most successful years there and I still have relations with some of the guys over there and still have the respect that I had when I was playing there with them. Even when I’m not right now I still have respect for them.”
Following is a partial transcript of Jennings’ conference call today, with the questions in parenthesis:
Do you wish Rodgers still was your quarterback?
No, man, God has blessed me to move on from that. I’ve embraced my situation and my role here and my teammates here.
What’s been the challenge of having three different starting quarterbacks – Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman – already with the Vikings this season?
Timing, getting in sync with the quarterback, getting familiar with what he sees vs. what just one guy sees. You have to deal with what three different guys are seeing, what they’re expecting, what they’re anticipating for the last four weeks. It’s all about rhythming up and hopefully we can rhythm up with the guy who’s at the helm this week and we can have some success.
Did you have the sense that in being honest about your thoughts about Rodgers you might be burning a bridge as a friend or a former teammate?
No. I’m not concerned about that. When you make comments and you say different things, again, if Aaron knows me like he’s known me over the past seven years, then he knows I’m not one of those guys that wishes ill will on anyone or tries to stand out and be apart from the team. Hopefully he knows that. Again, I can’t live in the past or what was said. I have to move on. I know and you guys know that he’s a great quarterback. He’s the best player in the game. So, (laughs), regardless of what anybody says, that’s not going to change, and that hasn’t changed.
You and Rodgers publicly encouraged the Packers to re-sign James Jones two years ago. Are you; disappointed Rodgers didn’t do the same for you?
It is what it is. It is what is it, no. We went to bat for James. I'd went to bat for anyone in that locker room, but like I said, it is what it is.
Did you leave the Packers to get out of the shadow of a deep group of receivers?
Uh, no. I just, you know, again, when the offseason came, I thought the best decision for my family and I was here. From all of us growing, not just myself, not just being in myself but for my wife, my kids, um and then myself. You know I know there's some, I've talked to Randall (Cobb), I've talked to, uh, those guys over there. Like I said with them, if I had stayed, I could have been overshadowing some of those guys, you know, not allowing them to flourish the way that I know that they're capable of flourishing. Randall specifically, I was being kind of like a little brother, and playing with James and Jordy (Nelson) obviously, they had had opportunities to shine. But to move on to allow them their due, it was time. It was just time. Like I said, I shared this with them. Same thing I'm saying to you, I've shared it with them. You know, had I stayed there, you know we would have been continuing to be looked at as a overall group, but they needed some attention individually. Specifically Randall because he was the youngest. And James and Jordy, they had been putting up consistent play for the past few years. So they were getting their due and it was time for Randall.
What’s this game against the Packers mean to you?
It means we need a win. (Laugh) We need a win, we need No. 2 to go in the win column. Bottom line.
How much have you thought about how Packers fans are going to react to you on game day?
if Brett (Favre) was the face of the franchise and they responded like that with him, I’d think I’m going to get a lot of boos. But I can’t worry about that. No. 1, we’re not playing in Lambeau this week, so I don’t have to concern my mind and thoughts with that, which even if we were I wouldn’t. I don’t p lay the game thinking of what the fans are going to think and what they’re going to say. There are going to be Greg Jennings fans, there are going to be Greg Jennings hate fans. It doesn’t matter if I said anything or did not saying anything, or if I put on some other uniform, Greg fans are going to be Greg fans, and there are loyal Packers fans, you’ve gotta respect them.
Is it important to you how you’re viewed in Green Bay after all you accomplished a lot there?
I did, and like I said, I can’t take away from that. When I left my wife and I put together a farewell deal, and that’s truly how I feel. God has allowed me to move on and embrace a new season of my life. I can’t complain about that. I’m embracing that with open arms. Do I still have ties there? Absolutely. Do we still have connections there? Absolutely. I still have a love for those fans and for that organization, absolutely, and the guys in that locker room. But I’m developing new ties, new relationships here.