Greg Jennings has scored more touchdowns – 10 – against the Minnesota Vikings than any other team. On Friday, Jennings joined the team that he has beaten 11 times when he was with the NFC North rival Green Bay Packers.
The two cities of Green Bay Bay and Minneapolis are only about 300 miles apart, but the defection from one NFC North team to another causes a bigger impact.
Jennings, 29, maintained respect for the Packers after seven years of service there, but a five-year contract that could be worth up to a reported $47 million helped implement a change on the two franchises.
“All those guys that I came out here on this ground and worked hard to get wins against the Vikings, I have the utmost respect for those guys. They started my career, they gave me my first opportunity. I’m very appreciative of that. But,” Jennings said, “it is a business. This has happened before. I’m not the first Packer player to jump on this side, so that makes it a little bit more relieving. It will be exciting. It will be business as usual. Obviously it will be a little bit more meaningful to get a win over those guys and probably more than any game on the schedule.”
He was right about a lot of things at his introductory press conference at the Vikings’ practice facility, and he knew he was joining a long line of Green Bay defections. The most infamous was QB Brett Favre, who was traded to the New York Jets in 2008 with the stipulation that they couldn’t turn around and trade him to the Vikings. Instead, one year later, the Jets released Favre and he signed a two-year contract with the Vikings.
But Favre wasn’t the first big name, even of this era. That would belong to safety Darren Sharper, but there have been plenty of others in the past 20 years who changed green for purple and moved west.
Jennings admitted that his decision basically came down to the Vikings and Packers, but Minnesota “stepped up to the plate.”
The Vikings brought him to an expensive dinner Thursday night with head coach Leslie Frazier, general manager Rick Spielman and defensive end Jared Allen, among others. He said Allen’s recruiting was about all he needed. Of course, the big-money contract didn’t hurt either.
“I was looking for change. Green Bay, I gave them seven good years. They were seven great years for myself. I had a lot of success,” Jennings said. “Obviously we were able to win and it was great. But at the same time, a lot of young talent. The (abdominal) injury kind of hurt me last year and getting shuffled around a little bit. As a competitor, someone who wants to be on the field all the time and feels like he can still do it, I can definitely still do it. I can definitely still make plays and be as exciting as I was in my earlier years. I’m not old. I’m 29. I’m not old! Let me throw that out there. I’m 29 years old.”
Jennings’ greatest success has come against the Vikings. In 15 games against them, he has 68 receptions for 1,018 yards and his personal-best 10 touchdowns. Before Favre left Green Bay, Jennings was the recipient of the gunslinger’s 400th career TD pass.
Those seven years in Green Bay brought 425 receptions for 6,537 yards and 53 touchdowns. The Packers beat the Vikings in the playoffs last year, but Jennings sees a bright future in Minnesota.
“From a football perspective, when you start to gauge and get years under your belt, you want to go to a team that is still a contender, that has the opportunity to win,” Jennings said. “The window isn’t closing, the window is opening up. I saw that with this ball club last year. It kind of snuck up on everyone, including the Packers, ourselves when I was over there. It’s exciting to see what they bring to the table.”
The former Vikings killer is now going to try to flip the script and burn his old teammates, and Frazier couldn’t be happier.
“He’s a young man that we have tried to corral for a number of years as we’ve tried to defend him. Now to have him on our football team is something that we’re all excited about and we’re looking forward to a lot of great days,” Frazier said.
Jennings caught Favre’s 420th and 421st touchdown passes as the quarterback tied and surpassed Dan Marino’s record for career touchdown passes, and Jennings caught Aaron Rodgers’ first touchdown pass. Those memories were made with the Packers.
“I’m excited for the change,” he said. “I’m up for the change. And I’m up for the challenges that lie ahead.”
Tim Yotter is the publisher of 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.