GREEN BAY, Wis. -- M.D. Jennings' entire NFL career to date has been defined by one play.
“It’s something that’s stuck with me, unfortunately,” Jennings said Tuesday. “But it’s something I’m trying to get over. I don’t want to be remembered by that play.”
It’s understandable that Jennings is a topic of conversation this week. Although it’s only a preseason game, the Packers meet the Seahawks on Friday night at Lambeau Field for the first time since the replacement officials ruled that Seattle receiver Golden Tate -- and not Jennings -- had possession of the ball in the end zone and thus was awarded the game-winning touchdown on perhaps the most unlikely of all Hail Mary plays.
The game was nearly 11 months ago, yet not a day goes by that Jennings isn’t reminded of it.
“(It happens) all the time,” he said.
And that doesn’t just go for Jennings.
Said Packers coach Mike McCarthy when asked about it on Tuesday: “I don’t need to think about it; I’m always reminded of it.”
Yet it is Jennings’ name that will forever be attached to the play that ultimately forced the NFL and its officials to strike a deal to end their labor dispute.
At this point, there’s probably only one way for Jennings to change the way he’s perceived. That starts with him winning a starting job. The third-year pro appears to have the lead over second-year player Jerron McMillian in the battle for the starting strong safety spot that Charles Woodson played at times last season.
That Jennings could lock up the job with a strong performance against the Seahawks is merely a coincidence to him.
“It’s just a football game,” Jennings said. “Regardless of preseason or regular season, you’ve got to go out there and give it your all, regardless of which team takes the field. You’ve just got to do your thing.”
Despite his inability to come up with a clean interception that would have won the Seattle game, the strength of Jennings’ game is his ability to cover, especially in deep zones. That’s why he appears to be better suited to play in the base defense than McMillian, who has more experience playing closer to the line of scrimmage and likely will be the dime defensive back.
“That’s what they say because they haven’t seen me back deep a lot,” McMillian said. “You’ve seen me the majority of the time at the line of scrimmage, playing in the slot. When I do get the opportunity to play back deep, not a lot happens at the time.”
Regardless of how the snaps are divided between Jennings and McMillian on Friday, one thing is certain: Anyone watching that game, which is one of the NFL’s national TV games on CBS this week, is bound to see the Tate-Jennings play over and over.
“The only thing I can do is go out there and do my job,” Jennings said.