Greg Jennings becoming more comfortable in second year with Vikings
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MANKATO, Minn. (AP) - You can hear it in the way Greg Jennings talks about the Minnesota Vikings offense under new coordinator Norv Turner.
You can see it in his smile when he playfully opens his media sessions with a joke or a dig.
You can feel it in the light and airy way the veteran receiver carries himself both on the field and off during training camp.
Jennings just seems a lot more comfortable in his second season in Minnesota than he did in his first.
"When you've gone through something and have experience at it, you gain more knowledge and have more understanding and you develop a comfort level," Jennings said. "That's what's taken place."
Last year, Jennings arrived in Minnesota after spending the first seven seasons of his career with the Green Bay Packers. When he decided to leave for a big contract with the NFC North rivals, the split wasn't smooth.
The two sides traded a few biting, but mostly harmless, barbs and the questions that came from the media put him on the defensive early.
After establishing himself as one of the team spokesmen during his time in Green Bay because of his candor and his accessibility, Jennings withdrew from the public eye as he got himself settled in Minnesota.
He also had to endure a revolving door of quarterbacks and a run-heavy system from Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave that contributed to his relative lack of production.
Jennings had 68 catches and four touchdowns in 2013, but his 11.8 yards per catch was the lowest full-season average of his career and his 804 yards receiving were his lowest output in a full season since his rookie year.
Musgrave was fired along with head coach Leslie Frazier after the season ended, and new coach Mike Zimmer brought in Turner, widely considered one of the most innovative minds in the game, to revamp the offense.
"We were heavy, heavy, heavy run game," Jennings said. "Now we're going to take a lot more stress off of Adrian. He's still going to get a heavy dosage of run. But I think with what Norv brings to the table, he's going to bring a more balanced offense."
The prospect of being more heavily involved in the game plan from week to week seemed to have emboldened Jennings, who will turn 31 in September.
"I think that he has done especially well since we have started camp the last four days," Turner said. "He has really zeroed in and focused in. He is important in what we do, playing in the slot in the third down and then he is the guy that can move around and create some matchup things with him, so I like what I have seen."
Jennings also is no longer asked about the Packers, about quarterback Aaron Rodgers and about his decision to leave the organization and his reasons for it. That's all in the past now, and this is home.
He's serving as a mentor to second-year pro Cordarrelle Patterson, helping rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater get up to speed and also reigniting the chemistry he had with veteran quarterback Matt Cassel.
"Greg always looks comfortable," receiver Jerome Simpson said. "That guy's a smooth guy, man. I look up to him myself being a veteran because he's just always cool and calm. He runs great routes."
It appears he even has a new nickname. Receivers coach George Stewart has taken to calling Jennings the team "encyclopedia."
"Just like you look at an encyclopedia," Simpson said, "you look at him to get techniques and look up things about this game."© The Associated Press