Greg Jennings spent last Sunday’s game in St. Louis on the sideline, where he’s spent the majority of the season as a spectator rather than contributor because of a lingering groin injury.
But when the victory had been secured and the post-game pleasantries had been exchanged, the Green Bay Packers two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver made a bee-line for the locker room, perhaps not in a full-out sprint but definitely faster than a jog.
And that’s when Jennings knew.
“I tried to run off the field, just to see how it felt, because I figured I would try to play this game,” Jennings said Thursday, referring to Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lambeau Field. “And when I felt it grabbing at me, I knew something (was wrong). Before then, I kind of knew something was going on. But (running off the field) just triggered red flags kind of went up.
“I came in the next morning, told Doc (Packers team physician Dr. Pat McKenzie) that I wanted to seek out a second opinion, which we were kind of going that route eventually. But (there was) no sense in waiting any longer.”
That second opinion, which he received Wednesday Dr. William Meyers in Philadelphia, was an abdominal rectus abdominal tear, Jennings said. And the diagnosis left him with two options: Get an injection that could perhaps get him through the rest of the season, or have surgery – not season-ending surgery, but surgery nonetheless – and miss the next several weeks.
“The way (Meyers)described it to me was, (it’s like) two people pulling on the end of a rope and it starts to fray and the more tugging, the more fraying, which means the more tearing occurs. That’s what I have going on,” Jennings told a gathering of reporters at his locker Thursday. “I’m opting to get the surgery so I can be done with it.”
For Jennings, who has already missed four of the Packers’ seven games since he suffered the injury in the Sept. 9 regular-season opener against San Francisco, it was an easy call. The surgery is scheduled for Tuesday in Philadelphia, and Jennings said the procedure is done on an outpatient basis and takes 20-25 minutes. It is minimally invasive – “I’ll be able to get up, walk out on my own and I’ll be back walking in the locker room and you guys will never know on Wednesday,” he said – but there’s no clear timetable for his return.
Jennings becomes the latest high-profile Packers player to go down with a serious but not season-ending injury, joining running back Cedric Benson (foot) and safety Charles Woodson (collarbone). Benson is on injured reserve with the designation for possible return, while Woodson is expected to miss about six weeks after going down against the Rams.
“Hopefully I can return before the season ends. We’ll see. But it’s not season-ending,” Jennings said. “The injection would’ve masked most of the pain, but there was still no guarantee I could go out there and hit that last gear, and that’s the one thing I have to have is actually trying to create more separation than I would be able to create.
“There’s no sense to me in taking a shot that may or may not work, may take three-days-to-a-week to actually start to work. I could have spent the week rehabbing on a surgery that’s going to get me back perfect.
“The trainers have done a great job in the rehabilitation stages to get me to where I am right now. But now we have to take it a step further.”
Complicating matters for the Packers: Wide receiver Jordy Nelson missed practice Thursday after having his hamstring tighten up on him during Wednesday’s practice, and coach Mike McCarthy said afterward that Nelson won’t practice Friday, either. It’s possible that the Packers will be down to James Jones, Randall Cobb, little-used veteran Donald Driver and undrafted rookie free agent Jarrett Boykin at wide receiver against the Jaguars.
“We line up with 46, and we have 46. I feel good about it,” McCarthy said. “Every team deals with this at some point. I’m very confident in our plan, I’m very confident in our players, I’m excited about the opportunities some of our players that haven’t had them in the past weeks are going to get on Sunday. Then it’s all about winning, it’s all about winning and beating Jacksonville. We’ll see where we are Monday.
“We have three guys that have played a ton of football, and this will be a great opportunity for Boykin.”
Jennings’ long-term future is murkier. Set to become a free agent after the season, he has caught only 12 passes for 78 yards and one touchdown on the season. In fact, that touchdown catch, against New Orleans on Sept. 30, was the last snap he played. Asked if his impending free agency factored into his decision to have surgery, Jennings acknowledged that it did.
“It’s a little far down the road, obviously. (But) it’s kind of like a game of chess. Everybody plays, you have to strategically know your next move, and you set your next move up, but I’ve definitely thought about it,” Jennings said. “For me personally, this would be the best situation for me knowing I’m not putting myself in harm’s way to make it worse and just play and know I’m not 100 percent.
“Free agency will take care of itself. Hopefully, I’ve put on film certain plays that I’m able to make and showcase my talents. That will take care of itself when the time comes. Right now, I have to take care of myself and do what’s best for me.”
While Jones and Cobb have emerged with Jennings sidelined, he has been missed in the Packers’ offense, especially early on when the Packers started 2-2 and Jennings was in and out of the lineup. Asked if he could do things over, he would, Jennings wasn’t sure.
“In retrospect, you always wish you'd done things differently once it didn't work. But had it worked out to where I was OK, then it's like ‘OK, it's good that I came back.’” Jennings said. “But since I wasn't able to come back with a full recovery, obviously I wish I could have sat out, not came back in the Seattle game (on Sept. 24) and taken more time and seen where I would have been from then. But the past is the past. You can't live in the past, you can't change the past, time keeps on ticking. So right now, the decision and the choice that we're going with is going to get me back to 100 percent.”
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today,” and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.