The nurse in Nicole Jennings wanted to make sure her husband got all the peace and quiet he needed to recover. The husband and dad in Greg Jennings knew that sitting alone in a dark room until his headaches finally dissipated on Friday was simply not realistic
Not with Nicole expecting the couple’s fourth child in October, and not with a bunch of daddy’s girls who see their father as a heavily involved parent, not as the Green Bay Packers two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver.
“You know, Nicole’s a nurse, so she’s like, ‘No, leave Daddy alone, Daddy can’t do this, Daddy can’t do that.’ You know how she is,” Jennings said with a laugh. “(But with her being seven months pregnant), I’m not just going to be like, ‘Hey, baby, you’ve got the girls.’
“Obviously, for concussions there’s certain ways they try to treat. One of the ways is to completely shut you down, get you away from over-stimulating the mind and the brain. You pretty much have to withdraw a little bit. It’s tough being as active as I am with my girls, you know, to completely withdraw, but you have to take it easy. I wanted to get back out here, but I had to do the smart thing. Being a dad is first and foremost, health is first-and-foremost, as well, so doing the things I needed to do to get back healthy and being the dad that they were accustomed to seeing.”
While Jennings was able to joke about the recovery process on Sunday, after his first practice since being diagnosed with the concussion on Aug. 3 following the annual Family Night Scrimmage, his concussion was certainly no laughing matter. While he and the Packers medical staff disagree on the number of concussions he’s had – Jennings insists this was his second; the doctors and trainers have him down for a third – everyone agreed that it was important not only to follow the NFL-mandated post-concussion protocols but use extra caution in determining when Jennings should return to action.
Jennings revealed Sunday that he actually was suffering from headaches after a hit in practice two days before the scrimmage, and that might have been the reason it took him so long to get back on the field.
“I hit my head on the ground, split my nose open,” Jennings said when asked what happened on Family Night. “(But) it probably was a little bit before that on Wednesday, because I started getting headaches Wednesday.
“(I) got hit Wednesday, finished practice. The next day, headaches in practice, didn’t think anything of it. Then Friday (during) Family Night, I probably re-aggravated it. But whatever. I probably make it sound like it was minor, but it really wasn’t – honestly.”
Nonetheless, Jennings said he will play Thursday night at Cincinnati in the team’s pivotal third preseason game.
“If I’m practicing, I’m playing,” Jennings said. “That’s just mindset I have to take.”
Jennings’ first concussion in the NFL was an unforgettable one. In an Aug. 28, 2009 preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium, he lost consciousness after being sandwiched between Arizona cornerback Bryant McFadden and safety Aaron Francisco on a 25-yard completion during the first quarter. He stayed on the turf motionless before eventually sitting up and walking the field under his own power, with team physician Dr. Pat McKenzie’s arm around his waist.
Jennings said he doesn’t think he suffered a third concussion and can’t pinpoint when it supposedly occurred.
“In my eyes, that’s the only one (before this),” Jennings said. “I’m like, ‘What? I had another one?’”
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said there is no added concern among the medical about Jennings’ long-term or him being prone to concussions because of the extended time it took him to recover.
“Just talking with Greg and the medical staff, obviously the high side of caution is where you go to in these types of situations,” McCarthy said. “He feels very good about where he is and the time that was spent to get him to this point. So I do not have any concerns.”
Jennings, who was chosen for his second straight Pro Bowl last season after catching 67 passes for 949 yards and nine touchdowns despite missing the final three games with a knee injury, said he spent most of his time away from Lambeau Field at home with his family. Even when he went to work, he wasn’t allowed to do much.
“Preseason is all about getting ready for the regular season, roaring yourself up so you can perform at a high level once the first week comes around. But for me it’s about getting back in shape,” Jennings said. “I’ve been shut down completely for two weeks. When I say shut down completely, they wouldn’t let me walk into the weight room. They wouldn’t let me see a treadmill. They wouldn’t let me see anything,” Jennings said of the team’s doctors and trainers. “It’s going to be different for me getting my wind back, but today felt great.”
McCarthy said conditioning would likely be the biggest question mark not only for Jennings but for tight end Jermichael Finley as well. Finley returned to practice Sunday as well after missing the first two preseason games with a quadriceps injury.
Jennings, meanwhile, said his headaches finally cleared on Friday. He wouldn’t say how he fared on cognitive tests, but said when he did the physical exertion tests, he would invariably end up with another headache, which kept him off the field.
“It was one of those things that it’s tough because as a player, you don’t have anything physically, that anyone can look at or gauge, ‘Is he hurt? Is he not?’ It’s a trust relationship with myself and the trainers,” Jennings said. “As easy as it sounds, being honest (is difficult) when it comes to a situation like that because you want to get back out there, but you don’t want to put yourself in harm’s way.
“It was tough coming in here some days feeling whatever I was feeling and wanting to say, ‘You know what, I’m good,’ but knowing in the back of my mind that I really wasn’t. We fought through that for almost two weeks and now here I am. Back. Ready.”
There were instances where Jennings and quarterback Aaron Rodgers did not appear to be on the same page in practice Sunday. On one play, it appeared Jennings wasn’t sure where to line up and ran a different route than Rodgers was expecting. A couple plays later, Rodgers sailed a short pass well over Jennings’ head.
“When we have a quarterback like Aaron and a corps like we have – smart guys, guys who understand the timing and sense of time clock a quarterback has – (it) is like riding a bike in a sense. But it’s nothing like going out there and feeling that timing out,” Jennings said. “Today was huge for me. It felt great to catch a ball, turn up field and run with it. The guys have given me a hard time like, ‘Hey, the new guy,’ but I kind of felt like a new guy today.”