At the ripe age of 31, former Green Bay Packers receiver Greg Jennings made it clear he intends to keep playing. He's even open to finishing his career in Green Bay, where it began almost a decade ago.
Whether he gets that chance remains to be seen, but it's unlikely.
Jennings, who turns 32 in September, said on multiple national radio shows Tuesday he's open to returning to the Packers. It was only two years ago he signed a five-year, $45 million contract with the rival Minnesota Vikings. Jennings was cut by the Vikings last week with three years and $27 million left on that deal, and he remains available on the open market.
"I wouldn't shut the door on any opportunity, but I would definitely weigh them," Jennings told Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk on Tuesday. "I had a great career over in Green Bay, and the organization is phenomenal. The guys working there, playing with teammates there, are all great men. I enjoyed my career there."
Jennings is right. For most of his seven seasons, the two-time Pro Bowler did have a "great" career with the Packers.
Jennings led Green Bay in receptions twice and receiving yards three times. When the Packers made their Super Bowl run in 2010, he was their leading receiver in both categories. Jennings had two touchdown catches in Green Bay's win over Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLV, and also a clutch third-down catch late in the fourth quarter that set up a Mason Crosby field goal.
From 2007 to 2011, Jennings caught at least 920 yards five straight seasons. But in 2012, he played in only eight games because of a torn abdominal muscle that eventually required surgery. When his contract expired after the season, the Vikings offered a larger contract than the Packers.
The departure from Green Bay was messy.
In a series of interviews with Minneapolis media outlets, he was critical of the Packers and also MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers' leadership style. Jennings has since admitted he was wrong, even apologized. It's unclear how effective his attempt at reconciliation was with the Packers.
"I think coming out the first time and having to make that transition, it was difficult," Jennings told Pro Football Talk. "I didn't know how much of an ego I had at the time as far as – I wouldn't even say ego. It was just, I was hurt, honestly. I'm putting my feelings out there. It hurt to not be embraced, but that's the reality of the game."
Now, a second NFC North team has chosen not to embrace Jennings.
Before Minnesota's trip to Green Bay last season, Jennings said the move to the Vikings was beneficial off the field, especially from an "educational" perspective with his children. Jennings told Pro Football Talk his family planned to stay in Minneapolis, no matter which team he played for next.
His two years were less successful in football terms. In Minnesota, Jennings' production waned. He had 804 receiving yards in 2013 and 742 last season, the fewest since his rookie season.
On Tuesday, Jennings was candid about his abilities. At this point in his career, he said, Jennings isn't looking to be the "cornerstone" in an offense's passing game. He's thought about retiring, but he's looking for one last run with a team.
"I'm just looking for an opportunity," he said. "An opportunity to present leadership qualities, high-character qualities. These are things that I will bring to any organization that will have me. I'm not by any means trying to be the cornerstone of an organization from an output on the field standpoint, even though knowing I have a lot of capability of performing at a high level left in me. But I know the realistic aspect of the game, and that I'm 31 years old. My time in this league has kind of shifted from a performance-based.
"Can I put up the numbers? Absolutely, but it's more of an influencing and nurturing of the younger guys, and being that veteran leader within the locker room of how to be a great professional."
Jennings' past comments could make it difficult to become a leader again inside the Packers' locker room. Still, his apparent willingness to accept a diminished role could help him fit into Green Bay's offense. If the Packers have any interest, it would be as a fourth receiver behind All-Pro Jordy Nelson, Pro Bowler Randall Cobb and youngster Davante Adams.
Putting Jennings ahead of Adams in the pecking order could stunt the second-year receiver's growth, something Green Bay surely wouldn't allow. The Packers are also trying to develop seventh-round pick Jeff Janis and fifth-round pick Jared Abbrederis, who missed last season with a torn ACL.
Jennings' messy departure from Green Bay may not even be the biggest impediment blocking a return. After re-signing Cobb last week, several teams are in more dire need for a receiver than the Packers. Jennings said he'd would like to play for a contender, but the money is also important.
"They honestly both play a role," he said. "With it being on the end of what I would call my career, I definitely want to get the most bang for my buck. But being realistic with that, I definitely want to win having not won the last two years after leaving Green Bay. So that's definitely what I want to put into play, but most importantly I'm thinking what would be the best fit for myself and my family, being that we're going to stay in Minneapolis, and they're going to do the brunt of the traveling back and forth to see dad play. That's going to play the biggest role."
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