New Viking Greg Jennings is in the process of making the move across the Mississippi River from Wisconsin to Minnesota. After not getting the kind of offer he was seeking from Green Bay, Jennings becomes the latest star Packers player to make the trip west to Minnesota – following in the footsteps of Darren Sharper, Ryan Longwell and Brett Favre.
Monday morning in an interview with Vikings play-by-play man Paul Allen on KFAN radio, Jennings said he got clarity on the atmosphere with the Vikings from Favre. Jennings played two seasons with Favre in Green Bay before the quarterback was traded to the New York Jets in 2008. In 2009, the Jets released Favre and the Vikings signed him to a two-year deal and he helped lead the Vikings to the NFC Championship game in his first season in purple.
As usual, the Old Gunslinger didn't hold back on his assessment of Minnesota. He and Jennings were actually speaking to one another when the meetings with the Vikings brass began.
"Literally, as I got off the plane and (offensive coordinator Bill) Musgrave walked up to me, I'm on the phone with Brett," Jennings said. "I spoke with Brett two or three times throughout this process. He shot me straight. I knew if there was one person that would shoot straight and tell me exactly what I wanted to hear and things I possibly didn't want to hear, it would be Brett. He did that for me."
While Jennings comes from a team that has QB Aaron Rodgers as the face of its franchise, he knows where the bread is buttered in Minnesota. Adrian Peterson is the centerpiece of the Vikings offense, but Jennings believes that can have a ripple effect for the passing offense as well. Because of the attention he receives, Peterson opens things up for everyone else in the offense and he's looking forward to be playing alongside Peterson instead of against him.
Having played with arguably the best quarterbacks in the league with both Favre and Rodgers, he sees some similarities in the point in his career that Christian Ponder is to where Rodgers was after Favre was shipped off to the Jets. He said the Vikings did an impressive selling job with their highlight film of Ponder, but it served its purpose. Jennings came away from the film study impressed with what he saw.
"I was able to see him make all throws," Jennings said. "He has a very strong arm. He can move within the pocket. If there's one thing I would say, he probably, as every young quarterback, can work on accuracy outside the pocket. But that will come. To his credit, he had every right to be frustrated with the pieces that were around him – no disrespect with Percy (Harvin) going down and him having a young group of guys around him. He had every right to be a little frustrated, but he played well with what he had and he was able to have success."
Jennings came away from his first discussions with Ponder with the feeling that the young QB is very confident and won't be looking over his shoulder. He made strides from his rookie season to his second year and Jennings wants to be part of his continued ascent in the NFL.
"A little competition pushes you to acceleration really fast," Jennings said. "Bringing Matt Cassel in, Christian is going to be confident, which he should be. He should be confident. He's a really good quarterback. He's young. He's maturing. He's going to get better with experience. We all know that. It's evident with the success he's had thus far."
Jennings said his ultimate decision had more to do with the convincing job that general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Leslie Frazier did selling him on the Vikings organization.
"Mr. Spielman, Coach Frazier and the Wilf family, they were more in tune to me playing in this color and with this organization than Green Bay was," Jennings said. "The decision was made and I'm excited about it and, even more so than me being excited about it, my family is excited about it. That always makes it easy."
Asked what impressed him most about the Vikings and convinced him to make the jump from the team he won a Super Bowl with, Jennings said the marked improvement the Vikings made with a young group of players was a motivating factor. Just as the Packers won the Super Bowl with a young QB coming off a double-digit loss season, Jennings was impressed with the strides the Vikings made last season with a young team – going from 3-13 to 10-6 and a playoff berth. Jennings is convinced the best is yet to come for the Vikings.
"Just what you guys were able to do last year with the pieces that you had, obviously the interest was there because of that," Jennings said. "The youth and the ability to grow – when you have a window of opportunity, you have to take advantage of it. I definitely feel like the window is opening for this ball club and I'm excited to be a part of it."
The New England Patriots made a late run to try land him, but Jennings had already committed to the visit with the Vikings and wasn't second-guessing himself in the decision-making process once he got to Winter Park. He was looking at the best fit for him and his family. Frazier, Spielman, Musgrave and wide receivers coach George Stewart did a good selling job, what Jennings described as "a love affair" from the time he landed in Minneapolis.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Favre, others helped convince Jennings
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