Jennings, who was a central figure in the Packers’ offense from 2006 through 2012 and ranks fifth in franchise history for receiving touchdowns and seventh in receptions, is in his second season with the rival Minnesota Vikings. He was booed heartily when the Vikings played at Green Bay in Week 12 of last season, though there were limited opportunities for fans to voice their opinions, with Jennings catching two passes – and dropping another – for 29 yards in a 26-26 tie.
“I don’t” care about being booed, he said in a conference call with Packers beat reporters on Tuesday. “I can’t concern myself with that. I was on that side when Brett (Favre) came back (in 2009 and 2010), so I understand the reaction he got, so I don’t expect it to be anything better than that. I mean, it is what it is. I’m the opposition. I’m an opponent. I want to win.”
Jennings’ decision to sign with Minnesota was not taken well by Packers fans, and he doubled up on the animosity by playing into the clubs’ border-war rivalry. Upon signing with Minnesota as a free agent in 2013, he spoke critically of Aaron Rodgers’ leadership skills and said he was “brainwashed” into believing that everything was better in Green Bay. During his conference call with Packers beat reporters last season, Jennings said he “probably took it a little too far” and that some of his words were “manipulated.”
On Tuesday, Jennings’ spoke with regret about some of the things he said.
“What was done was done,” he said. “Last year, there were things that were said that I should not have said. But they were said. I can’t take them back. But, obviously, looking back on it and self-reflecting, those were some things that I wish I had not said or done.”
Nonetheless, Jennings provided some fresh fodder for fans by calling Minnesota a “step up” for himself and his family. After chasing the money in free agency – he received a five-year, $45 million contract – the Vikings went 5-10-1. While the Packers won their third consecutive NFC North championship, the Vikings are starting over under new coach Mike Zimmer.
Still, Jennings said he has no regrets about leaving Green Bay, where he had become a fan favorite. Even in small-town Green Bay, Jennings’ success and personality had led to ample off-the-field opportunities, including TV appearances on “Criminal Minds” and “Royal Pains.” However, despite the Vikings being in rebuilding mode, Jennings said he wouldn’t trade his situation “for the world.”
That’s because he feels at home in Minnesota.
“This is sincerity right here -- it really has nothing to do with football,” Jennings said. “From a football standpoint, I would have loved to have finished my career out in Green Bay but, from where I am spiritually and where I am with my family and the growth that we’ve had because of what we have around us educationally -- and there was some great educational systems there, as well -- but this is 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.”
Of course, time heals all wounds. Favre, arguably the most famous hero-turned-villain in Packers history – will be inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame next year. Being loved again by Packers fans, however, isn’t front and center in Jennings’ mind. Love him or hate him, he apparently doesn’t care.
“Honestly, it’s important for fans to understand who I am and what I represent,” Jennings said. “No. 1, I don’t hate or dislike anybody, so I would hope and my desire would be that no one hates or dislikes me, but that’s just not the society we live in. You know, I’m a faith guy. So, my faith, family and my career (matter the most). If I continue to humble myself and show perfect love, it eliminates a lot of things. And that’s all I can show and control, obviously, is what I do. I can’t control or concern myself with what others may say or think or feel. Everyone has a right to their own opinion.”
No doubt, Jennings will hear some opinions on Thursday night.
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