For most of his professional career, the majority of the highs and lows that Michael Jenkins has experienced have come at the Georgia Dome. He spent seven seasons with the Atlanta Falcons and is making his first return since the team made no effort to re-sign him following the end of the lockout – at which time the franchise had mortgaged its short-term draft future by giving up a king's ransom to draft Julio Jones.
On Sunday, Jenkins said his homecoming isn't about exacting revenge. As a veteran player, he knows as well as anyone that the NFL is a business and the money that gets spent has to be spread around. With Jones and Roddy White both commanding top dollar for their respective positions with the Falcons, Jenkins became expendable. He said it will a new experience returning to Atlanta as a visitor, but it isn't about exacting revenge.
"It'll be different," Jenkins said. "It'll be the first time on the visitor's side, but I'm excited to get down there and get a win. That'll be the best feeling – going down there and leaving out of there with a win."
When Jenkins was with the Falcons, he was part of the maturation process of a rookie quarterback who was being handed the keys to the franchise in Matt Ryan. He said he sees a lot of similarities in what he saw when Matty Ice was just a cube and similar to Christian Ponder today.
"They were both smart coming into this league as rookies," Jenkins said. "I think Matt came in and he had a little bit of an advantage because he had OTAs and he had an offseason to really learn the offense and get to know the whole ins and outs of it. Christian has come in and done extremely well picking (the offense) up extremely fast. He's playing well above and beyond a rookie. Of course, he's had some mistakes and a couple turnovers here and there, but that's to be expected. He's still out there fighting and giving us a chance to win every week."
Jenkins' friendship with Ryan will take a three-hour timeout on Sunday, as it likely will with the fans. Jenkins said he isn't sure how the fans will react to him. It wasn't his choice to leave Atlanta. It was an organizational decision. He has a lot of friends and fans down there, but he will be wearing purple, not black and red, which will make him a member of the enemy. Will the fans give him a tip of the hat for the years he gave the organization?
"I don't know," Jenkins said. "I tried to play hard and do everything I could when the ball came my way. I may get some boos. I may get some cheers. I don't know."
The hardest part of the day may be making his way into the visitor's locker room. He spent years walking around the bowels of the Georgia Dome, but has never set foot in the visitor's locker room is and isn't 100 percent sure he would find it on his own.
"I can't say that I have – not even on those little special events," Jenkins said. "I've never been on that side (of the stadium), so it will be a first."
While unfamiliar with his surroundings in the opposition locker room, he is no stranger to the cornerbacks assigned to stop him from having a big homecoming. He went up against them in practice on a daily basis and knows their strengths and weaknesses inside and out. He thinks that innate knowledge can be used to his advantage, but added that they know a lot about him as well.
"It goes both ways," Jenkins said. "They know me. I know them. You've just got to go out and execute. They're not going to know what plays are being called. (Brent) Grimes has really good ball skills and can make some plays down the field. (Dunta) Robinson can put his hands on you and things like that. Hopefully, there are some techniques I can still use that will work on them that I've had from practicing against them."
He said that he has remained in contact with many of his former teammates, exchanging texts on a somewhat regular basis. He said the trash talk hasn't started, but it isn't Sunday. Things could change by then.
"It hasn't been bad … yet," Jenkins said with a smile. "We've still got the whole week to go."
Jenkins tried to downplay his return to Atlanta, but did admit it's something he's looking forward to and is going to give his best effort to let Falcons fans that once cheered him get an appreciation of what they lost.
"I'm sure there will be a little extra juice, being down there as a visitor and wanting to play well," Jenkins said. "It'll be fun."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Jenkins looking forward to facing Falcons
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