Packers departure helped Greg Jennings deal with Vikings exit

MAPLE GROVE, Minn. -- It was late last season when Greg Jennings first got the feeling his time with the Minnesota Vikings might be coming to a close. Jennings had started to click with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater after two uneven seasons marred by quarterback instability, but he couldn't shake the feeling he still wasn't going to be in the team's future.

"You just know when things are shifting, and I remember telling my wife, even during the season, 'Babe, I don’t think this is going to work out next year,'" he said during his charity golf tournament at Rush Creek Golf Club on Monday. "In my dealings with people, you have that sense of, 'I'm doing everything they want me to do, yet it's still not meshing.' When that’s happening, you kind of know. It wasn’t a surprise, and obviously everybody will have their own opinions of what they think. But I embrace it.”

Jennings and the Vikings could not come to terms on a restructured deal for the 2015 season, and the Vikings released the wide receiver after they acquired Mike Wallace for a fifth-round pick. Wallace seemed like a better fit than Jennings in Norv Turner's offense, and in the end, both wideouts wound up where it seemed like they should have been during free agency in 2013: Wallace with Minnesota, and Jennings with Joe Philbin (his former offensive coordinator with the Green Bay Packers) in Miami.

"I really think they had their minds made up," Jennings said. "But it all worked out. It really did."

This time, Jennings said, he was ready to handle his departure from Minnesota more professionally than he did when he left Green Bay in 2013.

That summer, Jennings took a series of jabs at his former organization, repeatedly referring to quarterback Aaron Rodgers as "12" or "the guy they have now" in interviews and saying the Packers "brainwashed" players into thinking their culture was the only approach that would work in the NFL. Jennings also criticized Rodgers' leadership, saying the two-time NFL MVP needed to do a better job of being accountable to his teammates.

Jennings has since apologized for those comments and praised the organization with whom he won a Super Bowl in 2011. His criticism of the Packers, Jennings said on Monday, was rooted in the fact he never wanted to leave Green Bay and was having trouble accepting that the Packers weren't making a spirited effort to keep him.

"The way I exited Green Bay was very unprofessional," Jennings said. "But I don't feel any of that here. I felt more of a disrespect from Green Bay, honestly. It was more dealing with myself -- it was, 'Man, I really wanted to stay in Green Bay.' I really wanted to stay here [in Minnesota], but I've grown so much in my faith, to where I recognize where God is moving and making change.

"It just was really something I was dealing with myself. I had to recognize that I had a level of pride to where I felt like, 'Wow, I went through all of this.' It was almost a sense of entitlement, like, 'Wow, I dedicated my entire career, and [there's] no fight, no want? It's almost like you disowned your child. But that's what I was feeling -- and again, selfishly. Bottom line, I was hurt, because I did want to stay. But I wasn't willingly embracing change at that moment. It's unfortunate, but I've been very apologetic to them personally. I don't have a lot of things where I wish it wouldn't have happened. I definitely wish I would have handled that better."

Now Jennings is done playing for the Vikings, but he still lives in Minnesota with his family, and he plans to keep raising his kids in the Twin Cities. He moved his charity tournament from Kalamazoo, Michigan, to Rush Creek for the first time this year; Vikings wide receivers Charles Johnson and Adam Thielen were among those playing.

"A lot of times, they look at where you are and say, 'I don't know if I'm going to support him, because I don't know if he's really here,'" Jennings said. "But for us, it was important for my wife and I to project the message that, 'This is home.' We want the community to embrace us, not for being a Vikings player, but for being Greg and Nicole Jennings."