GREEN BAY, Wis. For the first time in two months, Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings is pain-free.
Just 11 days after undergoing surgery to fix his abdominal tear, Jennings was walking around the team's locker room with a renewed sense of optimism that he'll be back on the field soon.
"I feel really, really good; really good," Jennings said Monday. "(I'm) making a lot of progress. Pain-free, so that's a step in the right direction."
Jennings hasn't played since Week 4. He caught a nine-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers in the second quarter of that game and has been out ever since.
Jennings initially suffered a groin injury on Green Bay's final drive in Week 1, missed the following game, but returned in Weeks 3 and 4. But after his touchdown catch, that was it. The injury had become too much to continue playing with.
After a second medical opinion revealed that the groin injury had become an abdominal tear, which was classified as a core muscle injury, Jennings had surgery on Nov. 1.
The medical protocol is for Jennings to wait three full weeks before doing any running whatsoever, but the 29-year-old two-time Pro-Bowler is getting anxious.
"That's too long, in my opinion," Jennings said. "But it is what it is. (The doctor) is more of the cautious type, which he has to be. Myself, I'm like, let's go. I'm more of a speed-up-the-time (guy). I feel great.
"I haven't run, I haven't done all that stuff, because they won't let me. We're not supposed to right now. I kind of snuck and did it anyway. I've developed an itch.
"It's like a little kid you let taste a piece of candy. Now you try to feed him vegetables again, it's not really going to happen. They've experienced the candy, they want candy. I've experienced working out, now it's like, 'Just let me go.' My mindset is, I was pretty much ruled out anyway, so let's take the harness off and just go free and see what happens."
Just like prior to the surgery, Jennings isn't giving out a potential timetable for his return to game action.
"I have a target in my own mind," Jennings said. "It's in my mind; I'm going to keep it right there ... Of course I want to be able to play right now, but I don't know. We'll see."
Jennings, who will be a free agent after this season unless the Packers place their franchise tag on him, has had a series of injuries over the past 11 months. First, he had a knee injury that kept him out of the final three regular-season games last season. Due to those three missed games, Jennings fell 51 yards shy of a fourth consecutive 1,000-plus yard receiving year. This season, Jennings missed more than two weeks of training camp with a concussion and wasn't able to last one full regular season game before injuring his groin.
With some confusion over how his groin injury turned into an abdominal tear, Jennings explained his thought process early on, as well as that of the team doctors.
"You hope that it's one thing," Jennings said. "Initially, it started off in the groin area, which typically all core muscle injuries start there. And then it started to move around. That's when the questions came, that's when the red flags went up, as this could potentially be that core muscle injury deal.
"I was thinking the same thing: 'Should have done it earlier.' I was pissed at myself for a minute for not jumping on it earlier. But who knows to jump on it right away when what you have is a groin (injury)?"
In Jennings' absence, it took Green Bay's offense a few weeks to adjust without one of its best playmakers. But now, the emergence of speedy second-year receiver Randall Cobb and the sure-handed, big-play threat of James Jones -- who has only one drop and is second in the NFL with eight touchdown catches -- has the Packers looking ready for a playoff push with or without Jennings.
However, with seven games remaining on Green Bay's regular-season schedule, Jennings is determined to play in as many of those as possible.
"My next step is running, getting back out on the football field, catching some balls, making some plays, being me all over again," Jennings said. "I want to play some football this year."
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