It appears, for now at least, that the Greg Jennings public criticism tour of Aaron Rodgers may be coming to a standstill.
Over the past week, Jennings, who is entering his maiden season with the Minnesota Vikings following a seven-year run (2006-12) with the Packers, has been wont to not refer to his Rodgers, his teammate for five seasons, by his name—preferring, instead, to go with “12” or “the guy they have now”—in interviews, which have also encompassed some not-so-subtle jabs at the 2011 NFL MVP’s leadership style.
“A lot of times when you have a guy who creates that spotlight for himself and establishes that and takes a lot of that, it becomes so-and-so and the team,” said the wide receiver, as reported by the startribune.com on July 25. “It should always be about the team.”
In the same interview, the 29-year-old Jennings, a two-time Pro Bowl selection (2010-11) during his partnership with Rodgers, added, “Don’t get me wrong, ‘12’ is a great person. But when you hear all positives, all positives, all positives all the time, it’s hard for you to sit down when one of your teammates says, ‘Man, come on, you’ve got to hold yourself accountable for this.’ It’s hard for someone to see that now because all they’ve heard is I’m doing it the right way, I’m perfect. In actually, we all have flaws.”
Following the candid comments made by Jennings, who also noted on ESPN’s First Take that he favors former Green Bay signal caller Brett Favre over Rodgers, Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier, entering his third full season on the Vikings’ sidelines, met with his star receiver to put a stop to the public criticism.
“We’re the Vikings and we want to talk about us, what we’re trying to get done,” said the 54-year-old Frazier, according to The Pioneer Press. “That’s where our focus has to be. There’s so much work to be done, and we don’t want to be looking at what’s happening with other teams. We’ve got to focus on that. He’s good with that…Hopefully we’re moving on.”
For his part, Rodgers, who has guided the green and gold to back-to-back NFC North crowns, has brushed Jennings’ comments to the proverbial mental wayside.
“To me, I’m concerned with the opinions of the guys in this locker room and the guys we have here,” noted Rodgers, as reported by ESPN.com. “It’s exciting to be able to be one of the leaders of this football team, and I’m very confident in my style.”
While the Packers enter the 2013 campaign with Rodgers firmly behind center for the sixth consecutive season, Jennings’ new club is another story.
Incumbent starter Christian Ponder has shown flashes of why the Vikings tabbed him with the 12th overall selection of the 2011 NFL draft, but enters his third season in the Twin Cities with a career completion percentage of 59.2 percent; a quarterback rating of 77.1; 31 touchdowns compared to 25 interceptions; and an uninspiring 6.2 yards per pass attempt average.
Flanking the former Florida State Seminal is 31-year-old Matt Cassel, last seen captaining the Kansas City Chiefs, who was signed by the franchise on March 14—the same day he was released by Kansas City.
Since guiding the Patriots to an 11-5 mark during Tom Brady’s injury-marred 2008 season, the 6’5”, 230-pound Cassel has passed for 13,242 yards and 80 touchdowns. Yet, over the past two season, Cassel has appeared in 17 of a possible 32 games and enters the season with more questions than answers for the Vikings. Is he capable of performing at his Pro Bowl level of 2010—a season in which the former USC Trojan tossed 27 touchdown passes (and a seven interceptions) en route to navigating KC to its first division crown in seven years—or a past-his-prime quarterback with a low production ceiling?
Having appeared in the postseason in all but two of his professional seasons since being drafted by Green Bay in 2006, Jennings, who has collaborated with two of the most accomplished signal callers over the past two decades, noted that he is looking forward to challenge that lies ahead.
“But, for me, it’s a challenge,” said Jennings, as reported by startribune.com. “It’s a change of gear to where now I don’t have that [established] quarterback. That’s what everybody is saying. But in my mind, I don’t need that quarterback for us to be successful.”
For better or worse, Jennings will find out soon enough.