EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- It was difficult to listen to Leslie Frazier talk about how surprised he was that Greg Jennings couldn't play on Sunday against the Seahawks, how cautious he'd need to be before declaring Jennings fit to play next week against the Green Bay Packers, and not think the Minnesota Vikings coach was a little let down by what happened on Sunday.
Frazier said on Friday that there were no issues with Jennings' sore left Achilles tendon that would keep him out of the game against the Seattle Seahawks, adding, "He'll be ready to go." Even after talking to Jennings before a team meeting on Saturday night -- the first time Frazier said he got an inkling that Jennings might not play -- he didn't think it was possible the Vikings would be without Jennings on Sunday.
"Even then, I thought he’d be fine when he got up the next day to workout, see how he'd be," Frazier said. "(He) just wasn’t able to do it so we had to scratch him. So that was a tough one because we did expect him to be able to play."
It must be taken into account how fickle an Achilles injury can be -- Jennings wasn't sure even on Sunday how he'd injured it, adding he felt it for the first time when he woke up on Thursday morning -- and we don't know at this point what happened in the pregame workout that made either the receiver or the team's medical staff decide to scratch him. But the Vikings were already planning not to start Jerome Simpson after he was arrested for drunken driving the previous Saturday, so they were clearly counting on Jennings to be available. Whether Frazier was caught off-guard by the way things turned or whether he expected Jennings to play through the injury, it was clear Monday he was disappointed by the situation.
Asked if he thought Jennings would be ready for his return trip to Lambeau Field, Frazier said, "I’ll be careful to predict that now, because I really felt like he’d be ready to go for this last ball game and it didn’t work out, so we have to wait to watch him go through practice and see him do some things to be certain."
It would seem unlikely that Jennings would miss his first game in his old stomping grounds, but he's dealt with pesky injuries before; he missed at least two games in four of his seven seasons with the Packers, and sat out 11 during his final two seasons there. Concerns about Jennings' age (30) and his durability led to tepid projections when the receiver hit the free agent market, but the Vikings felt confident enough in Jennings to give him nearly $18 million in guaranteed money this spring. He played through a knee injury on Nov. 3 against Dallas, and this week was only his second time on the injury report all season, but Frazier's surprise over Jennings being unavailable certainly raised some questions.
Simpson wound up getting 31 snaps on Sunday with Jennings out, though he was only targeted with two passes and caught one. Frazier said Monday the Vikings are "probably where we are with Jerome," indicating he likely won't be suspended, but if the team is looking to discipline Simpson through a limited role again, it would be easier if it had Jennings available.
"It could affect it. You’re short one of your key guys," Frazier said, before adding, "The decision regarding Jerome, I don’t know if what happens with Greg would play in great detail with that decision." The Vikings might decide to sit Simpson down regardless of the situation, but taking a stand on disciplinary issues is always easier if you have some assurance it won't affect on-field results.
Jennings could probably give the Vikings that assurance, and he'll likely be motivated to get ready for Green Bay this week. His coach, meanwhile, is hoping Jennings' health won't bring the Vikings any more surprises.