Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Sneak peek: Greg Jennings' influence expected to vitalize young receiving corps

Posted by: Updated: July 23, 2013 - 10:23 AM

The Vikings will report to training camp Thursday and there’s little question that receiver Greg Jennings will be one of the most important new faces joining the mix in 2013. Jennings signed a five-year deal with the Vikings in March, divorcing from Green Bay after a seven-year run that included three 1,000-yard seasons, two Pro Bowl trips and a Super Bowl triumph.

So what’s next for Jennings, who will turn 30 in the first month of the regular season? Later this week, we’ll bring you a meaty profile of the veteran receiver as the centerpiece to our camp preview. And trust us, that’s a piece you won’t want to miss with Jennings delivering candid comments on Aaron Rodgers, Christian Ponder and the ins and outs of his free agent visit in March.

Here’s a small excerpt from that story with Jennings describing the refreshing change he’s felt so far in Minnesota with what he describes as a looser atmosphere than what he's used to:

When Jennings arrived at Manny’s downtown to meet a larger and more enthusiastic dinner party that included head coach Leslie Frazier, General Manager Rick Spielman and star defensive end Jared Allen, the rapport spiked. Quickly, he felt ready to join an environment where he felt players were trusted to be professionals without micro-management.

“It’s not a free-for-all. There’s structure,” Jennings said. “But there’s liberty. You can breathe. It’s like, ‘OK, I can do my thing.’ You know what you need to do, you get it done. Whereas [in Green Bay], everything was more cookie-cutter. … It’s just different. In a good way. And not knocking what we did there. Because obviously it was successful. But here, no one’s walking on egg shells.”

Trust us. You’ll want to check back in later this week for more of the thoughts Jennings had to share.

And understand this, the veteran receiver’s arrival in Mankato will come with an expectation that he’s ready, as promised, to become a mentor to a young receiving group that includes rookie Cordarrelle Patterson, an eager and explosive talent who is still so very raw.

Jennings has been tasked with helping Patterson learn how to study, how to refine his route running, how to capitalize on his strengths and work on his weaknesses.

Patterson emerged from the team’s offseason program impressed with how accessible Jennings has been.

It’s the same feeling Randall Cobb had as a rookie in 2011 upon his arrival in Green Bay.

And that’s because Jennings himself had the same feelings about Robert Ferguson way back in 2006, when he was an eager rookie looking to accelerate his growth.

Cobb was initially skeptical of just how much Jennings wanted to aid a younger player aiming to steal some of his shine.

“You hear those horror stories about veterans telling rookies the wrong routes and having them line up in the wrong positions,” Cobb said. “They’re messing them up on purpose. So you don’t know who you can trust. But then to have a guy come in like Greg and show you the ropes in every way made it a lot easier.”

With Jennings, Cobb said, there was always a team-first approach.

“That’s one thing that made our group special,” Cobb said. “Throughout the group, there was a push to work toward one common goal. It wasn’t about individual success. It was about the group’s success. Greg was a big part of that and being able to witness that was very beneficial.”

Patterson has already seen Jennings’ willingness to teach. More so, Jennings said, he wants the rookie to take note of his willingness to learn as well.

The keys to being a positive influence on Patterson?

“Being there to answer questions,” Jennings said. “Making sure to be constructive with criticism. But at the same time, letting him know when he’s doing things right. And letting him know that I’m watching him so I can get better as well. So it’s not just a one-way street. I’m not just watching him to tell him what he can do better. I’m watching him to see what I can add to my game.”

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