Friday, June 20, 2014
Greg Jennings feeling at home in Minnesota
By Ben Goessling
MINNEAPOLIS -- By the middle of last October, it had become obvious that Greg Jennings' first year with his new team was going to offer little of what the receiver had enjoyed with his old one: consistency.
In seven seasons with the Green Bay Packers, Jennings had one head coach and two franchise quarterbacks. He played one game with a quarterback not named Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers, and that was in the 73rd game of Jennings' career. By his sixth game with the Minnesota Vikings -- an ugly 23-7 loss to the winless New York Giants on "Monday Night Football" -- Jennings had caught a pass from his third different quarterback.
Greg Jennings had 68 catches for 804 yards and 4 touchdowns during his first season in Minnesota.
The turnover stunted Jennings' productivity and grated on his patience; he would leave the Vikings' practice facility exasperated, heading home to his wife Nicole. "She got the bit of me venting. That's my wife. That's my sounding board," Jennings said in a wide-ranging interview this week. "But I didn't want to expose that part to any of the guys and filter it down to where everybody's complaining. We understood there was a situation that wasn't conducive to our success at that position. No one needed to say anything about it, specifically me."
Instead, Jennings decided he would do his best to bring the Vikings some of the consistency he craved. He bit his tongue in the Vikings' wide receiver meeting room about the changes at quarterback, trying to connect with whoever was starting that week and bring the same habits to the practice field regardless of the uncertainty. He stayed in the ear of rookie receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, preaching to him about the importance of a steady work ethic. And Jennings clicked with Matt Cassel, whose preparation as a backup reminded Jennings of what he'd seen from Matt Flynn and a young Rodgers in Green Bay.
"I wanted consistency, but even when there wasn't consistency, I wanted to be consistent," Jennings said. "Whoever got the head nod, I was supporting them, as though they had been starting the week before, or whatever the case may have been."
Heading into Year 2 in Minnesota, it appears Jennings might have some of the stability he was missing last year. Cassel has a new two-year deal, after Jennings openly campaigned for the Vikings to re-sign the veteran, and rookie Teddy Bridgewater had an impressive spring in the Vikings' offseason workouts. The 30-year-old receiver has raved about the Vikings' new structure, with head coach Mike Zimmer and veteran offensive coordinator Norv Turner effectively giving the team, as Jennings puts it, a head coach on each side of the ball. And he's a year removed from questions about his decision to switch sides in one of the game's most bitter rivalries, which has been running hot ever since Favre signed with the Vikings in 2009 and got a kick from last year's are-they-kidding-or-are-they-serious flap between Jennings and Rodgers.
Jennings and his wife are soon to be homeowners in the Twin Cities, where they can envision living with their four kids after the receiver's career is over. Consistency, at long last, appears to be within reach.
"Once you understand (Zimmer's) mindset behind why we do what we do, it's easy to buy in, man. It really is," Jennings said. "The practices, why he's laid them out the way he's laid them out, it just makes sense. I told my wife today, 'I have no complaints. I really love it. I love the layout, the format (of practices)' She's like, 'What? I don't think I've ever heard you say you love it.' ... As long as I do my job, I'm good."