Updated: July 25th, 2013 5:38pm
Zulgad: Taking shots at Aaron Rodgers isn't going to help Greg Jennings

Zulgad: Taking shots at Aaron Rodgers isn't going to help Greg Jennings

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

There was something about the way Greg Jennings talked about Aaron Rodgers that day in June that made one wonder if he was just having fun or if there really was some underlying hostility.

Jennings, who left the Green Bay Packers in March to sign with the Minnesota Vikings as a free agent, had engaged in some back-and-forth with his former quarterback that included both saying "Who?" when asked about the other at various points.

Jennings did this following a minicamp practice in June and then praised Rodgers before adding one last thing. "He's a good quarterback," Jennings said. "He had great receivers. He had no choice but to be a great quarterback. I'm joking."

In retrospect, it was clear Jennings made a last-second decision to add those final two words because he thought better of what he had said.

Jennings made no such decision when he talked to the Star Tribune for an article that appeared on Thursday. For anyone who thought Jennings was just having fun with Rodgers, it's now clear there is some real animosity that exists.

"Don't get me wrong, '12' is a great person," Jennings told the Star Tribune, choosing again to not call Rodgers by name. "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 actuality, we all have flaws."

In this case, the only flaw that should matter to the Vikings is the fact Jennings doesn't seem to be able to let whatever feelings he has about Rodgers disappear.

Among the other key quotes Jennings gave to the Star Tribune regarding Rodgers:

"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. It should always be the team."

"For me, I'm such a team person, I'm going to defer to my teammates. I'm going to defer to the team, to the team, to the team. And I think when you reach a point where you're not deferring any longer, it's no longer really about the team."

There is something delicious about this because Jennings is basically saying that Rodgers has turned into Brett Favre. But that shouldn't be his concern.

What this seems to come down to is Jennings wanting to prove that he doesn't need Rodgers to be a successful receiver in the NFL. That the Packers became all about Rodgers and, in his mind, that wasn't fair.

The Star Tribune story said that Jennings began thinking about what was next for him in the final months of last season and came to this conclusion. "Maybe," he told the paper, "I need to go back to my college days where the quarterback wasn't just viewed as oh-so-great and still prove that I can be successful."

This explains why Jennings has spent the offseason pumping up Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder whenever he can. If Rodgers made Jennings a very good receiver, then in Jennings mind he wants to turn the tables and make Ponder a very good quarterback.

But it's not that simple and Jennings should know this.

First, Rodgers, like or not, might be the best quarterback in the NFL and has long run an offense that has not had a running game and often hasn't needed it. Rodgers is that good and has a Super Bowl championship to prove it.

Rodgers also hasn't spent his career throwing to first-round picks. Jennings was a second-round selection in 2006 and is the exact type of player who thrived in a passing game that was first directed by Favre and now is run by Rodgers. They are two elite quarterbacks and the fact they have huge egos is one reason why.

Second, Jennings needs to worry about himself and nobody else.

Entering his eighth season, he played in a career-low eight games in 2012 after suffering an abdominal injury. He finished with career lows in receptions (36) and yards (366). It wasn't Rodgers' fault that Jennings missed half the season. Jennings hasn't played in 16 games since 2010, when he had his third consecutive, and last, 1,000-yard plus receiving year.

The last concern, if you're the Vikings, has to be how Jennings will react if things don't go as he envisions them in Minnesota. Not only is it unfair to think Ponder can be Rodgers, or even close at this point, but it's also inaccurate to think that Jennings will automatically put up big numbers in this offense.

A few days ago, it was pointed out in this space that the Vikings would be better off if the offense did not have to rely on Adrian Peterson as heavily as it did a season ago. That doesn't mean that Peterson isn't, or shouldn't, remain the focal point of this attack.

Peterson is the best running back in the NFL and should be the featured player when the Vikings have the football.

Tight end Kyle Rudolph had 53 receptions last season, which is tops for all returning members of the team, and the hope is that fellow tight end John Carlson can also enter the mix after an injury-plagued 2012.

Second-year slot receiver Jarius Wright and rookie first-rounder Cordarrelle Patterson figure to enter the mix in the passing game, and even Jerome Simpson could see the ball thrown his way.

Ideally, the passing game works well enough that it creates more space for Peterson to run.

This does not mean Jennings won't be an important piece of the puzzle, but if everything goes according to plan, that's exactly what he will and should be. An important piece, but not the key one.

The Vikings have to hope Jennings understands this and also comes to accept that taking shots at his former QB isn't going to make him or anyone else any better.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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