GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Briefly, Greg Jennings let a shred of bitterness bleed through his opening news conference as a Minnesota Viking.
One particular criticism irritated him.
"I can definitely still make plays and be as exciting as I was in my earlier years," said the wide receiver, wearing new Vikings garb. "And I'm not old. I'm 29. Let me throw that out there."
Noted. With another Green Bay Packer embracing purple Friday, this NFC North rivalry rages on.
Jennings' decision came down to the Packers and the Vikings. Minnesota, he said, "stepped up to the plate." After seven years in Green Bay, Jennings is a Viking at the reported price of $47.5 million over five years with $18 million guaranteed.
Green Bay stayed in the race for Jennings. In the end, simply, the Vikings offered more money. So Jennings crossed state lines, just as Darren Sharper, Ryan Longwell and Brett Favre before him.
"It is a business and this has happened before," Jennings said. "I'm not the first Packer player to jump on this side, so that makes it a little bit more relieving. It will be business as usual. Obviously it will be a little bit more meaningful to get a win over those guys than probably any game on the schedule."
Re-signing the free-agent Jennings would have required some creative number-crunching from general manager Ted Thompson. It's no secret three of the Packers' best players -- Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji -- are in line for contract extensions. Fiscally conservative Green Bay entered free agency with a particularly tight budget.
There wasn't a pressing need for the Packers to re-sign Jennings with James Jones, Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson also at wide receiver. When Jennings was sidelined this past season, the offense adjusted and won nine of 10 games. It was never derailed or detoured.
The Vikings may have played hardball initially with Jennings. But all along, they were the team with the most ammo. And they also were the team driven by more desperation at the position. This week, Minnesota traded the disgruntled Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks. The position was gutted.
Out to be No. 1
Some who know Jennings say he sought more of a spotlight. He wanted out of an offense that featured multiple receivers. That was the echo in Jennings' news conference Friday. Just as he expressed subtle frustration upon returning from his core muscle injury, Jennings hinted that his role in Green Bay's offense was diminishing.
"I gave them seven good years," Jennings said of the Packers. "They were seven great years for myself. I had a lot of success. Obviously, we were able to win. It was great. But at the same time, a lot of young talent. The injury kind of hurt me last year and getting shuffled around a little bit.
"As a competitor -- someone who wants to be on the field all the time -- I can definitely still do it."
So if Jennings could accept the change of allegiance and swapping Aaron Rodgers for Christian Ponder, the Vikings made sense. Jennings acknowledged Ponder is going through "a maturation process," adding that he hasn't had much talent at his disposal.
"From what I've seen on film, he didn't have a lot of options to go to," Jennings said. "No disrespect to the guys he was throwing the ball to, but you could just get a sense that he needed a little bit more around him to give him some help."
And yet, he does see an upgrade at running back. With Adrian Peterson in the backfield, Jennings says "there are going to be some special things taking place on the football field."
Meanwhile, in Green Bay, a page is officially turned. Out is Jennings, out is the retired Donald Driver. Combined, the two had 16,674 receiving yards and 114 touchdowns in Green Bay. Now, they're both gone. One was given rock-star treatment on his way out the door, a full-scale retirement ceremony at Lambeau Field. The other was ridiculed by many across social media for signing a new contract.
Either way, Green Bay moves on. Jones knows this wasn't an easy decision for Jennings.
"He definitely had mixed emotions," Jones said. "He didn't know what he wanted to do, but he had to do what was best for him and his family. He's excited about his new opportunity. He said it's hard to leave the Packers, he wanted to finish his career there, but as we all know there's a business side of it.
"You only get so many shots and you want to take care of your family for the rest of your life and so you can't be mad at a person to go get his money."
Jennings admits he "was looking for change." He won a Super Bowl in Green Bay. Now, he's out of a shadow. In Minnesota, he's the unquestioned No. 1. He was paid as a cornerstone for the franchise.
Life in purple may go well, it may be a headache.
One thing's for sure. This rivalry, again, will heat up.
"They showed me and the Jennings family that they wanted the Jennings family to be a part of what they were doing as an organization," Jennings said, "and that's why I'm standing here."
Tom Silverstein Milwaukee Journal Sentinel contributed to this report.
(c)2013 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Visit the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at www.jsonline.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services