If his first practice in the Packers' mandatory full-squad weekend minicamp is any indication, Jennings is off to a flying start. The second-year pro, who struggled with an ankle injury that slowed him for most of the second half of last season, has reverted to his pre-injury form. Though the Packers were practicing in shorts and no pads, Jennings caught the ball well over the middle and on deep routes, and often separated from defenders.
"Greg's been here working," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. "He's looked good through the whole off-season. He's healthy. He's back. At the close of the season, the Chicago game (Dec. 31) was the first time that he has been healthy. I think you're going to see an improved Greg Jennings. More mature. He's stronger. You can see that in his body. I thought he had a nice day today."
Jennings has been taking part in the team's off-season workout program, which began on March 19. He never played against the Bears on New Year's Eve so he could be with his wife for the birth of their first child. But he said he felt, after re-injuring his ankle a few times since originally spraining it Oct. 22 against Miami, that he was close to 100 percent.
"The extra time we had till the Bears game, I had some time and my ankle started to feel better," said Jennings. "But something came up that was more important. I put family first. I hate that I had to miss the game, but I felt good. I don't know how effective I would have been, but I definitely would have shown a better outing than I did in previous weeks."
Jennings, selected by the Packers with the second of two second-round draft picks last year, finished 45 catches for 632 yards and three touchdowns. He had 20 catches in five games prior to his injury. After missing a week, he returned and re-injured the ankle on a few occasions, but still played.
"When he hurt his ankle he couldn't run some of the routes as crisply, and we had to have him on the field," said quarterback Aaron Rodgers. "Before that, he was able to separate from guys and make good catches. But everytime he started getting healthy, he hurt the same ankle again. But when he is able to get into a rhythm and can stay heathly this season, he's going to have a good season."
Donald Driver is the clear-cut No. 1 wide receiver for the Packers, but Jennings should be the solid No. 2 receiver and a bonafide playmaker when the season opens in September. In fact, it would be silly to think that rookie draft picks James Jones and David Clowney, or holdovers Ruvell Martin and Carlyle Holiday, or even veteran Robert Ferguson, will challenge Jennings. Jennings is stronger mentally and physically, plus his attitude is right to make plays for the Packers.
"I have to continue to make improvements, make strides," said Jennings. "I'm still a young player, working to get better. I feel like I'm going to be a better receiver this year. I actually know I'm going to be a better receiver this year. I'm confident in our receiver corp that we're going to get things done."
Those should be reassuring words for Favre and others who feel the Packers need more playmakers.
Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.