Vikings' Jennings prepared for more boos
Greg Jennings knows the chorus of boos will be waiting for him once he jogs onto Lambeau Field on Thursday night.
A year after trading in his Green Bay Packers' No. 85 jersey for the Minnesota Vikings' No. 15, the 31-year-old receiver isn't losing any sleep over it, either.
"I can't concern myself with that," Jennings said Tuesday morning. "I was on that side when Brett (Favre) came back, so I understand the reaction he got. So I don't expect anything to be anything better than that. It is what it is. I'm opposition. I'm an opponent. I want to win."
Upon his departure for arch-rival Minnesota, Jennings quickly became aware his parting shots at quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the culture of the Packers' locker room had irrevocable ramifications with the fan base.
At the same time, Jennings says he and his family are in a good place in the Twin Cities. He might have regrets about the words he said on his way out, but not his decision to leave the Packers for a five-year, $45 million contract less than two years ago.
It wasn't just about football, either.
"It really has nothing to do with football," Jennings said in a conference call with Green Bay media on Monday morning. "From a football standpoint, I would have loved to finish my career out in Green Bay, but from where I am spiritually and where my family is and the growth that we've had because of what we have around us, educationally.
"There's some great education systems there, as well, but it's a step up for us. We're just embracing it. We're excited to be here and not just because of what football affords and presents, but because of everything else that comes with it."
Jennings and his wife Nicole have four young children. They live in suburban Edina, Minn.
Jennings has fond memories of his seven seasons in Green Bay, though. A former second-round pick out of Western Michigan, he was one of the five established receiving weapons pictured with Rodgers on the cover of Sports Illustrated in November 2011.
Less than two years later, Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones and Jermichael Finley all have departed. Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Rodgers are all that remain.
It's difficult to maintain such an array of weapons in today's NFL with both salary-cap considerations and injuries. What the Packers had during an historic 2011 season was special, but business is business.
The Packers extended Nelson's contract in July, but Cobb is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Jennings still considers both friends. He views Cobb as a younger brother and made sure to send a congratulatory text to Nelson after his 209 receiving yards against the Jets two weeks ago.
"Now with the salary cap, that's the key," Jennings said. "It'll be hard to do that. I don't think it's impossible, but it's definitely going to be a challenge for any team to be able to accomplish that. You look at the guys who are on that picture and that cover, those aren't role players. Each individual guy could have gone somewhere and literally been the guy. It'll be hard to do something like that. That was a special group. That was a special team."
Jennings said his first year playing without Rodgers was humbling. The Vikings struggled to a 5-10-1 record while running through Matt Cassel, Christian Ponder and Josh Freeman at quarterback.
His 68 catches for 804 yards and four touchdowns was well-below what his average was during his time in Green Bay when he had at least 900 receiving yards in five consecutive seasons from 2007-2011.
Although rookie Teddy Bridgewater has replaced an injured Cassel, Jennings is off to a promising start with a team-high 15 receptions for 204 yards and a touchdown.
The Vikings also are playing without All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson in the wake of allegations of child abuse. That, combined with his experiences in Green Bay, have taught Jennings a team can't be about one player.
"You can't build a team around just one player," Jennings said. "You can build it around a guy, but you better have some good building blocks, and some good bricks around that guy. We expect nothing less than to come out and compete, and to give ourselves an opportunity to win and a chance to win each and every Sunday, and in this case Thursday night."
Jennings was on the Packers' sidelines when Brett Favre made his return to Green Bay in 2009 as a member of the Vikings. He doesn't want to be disliked, but knows the reception may be icy again on Thursday night.
All Jennings can do is move on.
"Last year, there were things that I said that I should not have said, but they were said," Jennings said. "I can't take them back, but obviously looking back on it and self-reflecting. Those were some things that I wish I would not have said or done, but life is about adapting and showing resolve. I'm in a great place, great situation, great community and wouldn't trade it for the world."
-- email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.