Over the ten days of camp, one of the standouts has been Jonas Jennings. Barrows and Maiocco both seem to be in agreement that he has stood out in the various drills thrown his way. It's been beaten into the ground, but Jonas Jennings has always been immensely talented. The problems that have kept him off the field and/or kept him from being a true standout have always appeared to be a combination of injuries and personal issues. Last season he left the team with personal issues and that was one of many problems that hurt the team.
After the morning practice in Napa yesterday, Jennings was willing to open up and go on the record with Maiocco. Events have certainly piled up on Jennings. I don't think it's necessarily to blame anybody in particular. At the same time, the tone portrayed about the situation ranges somewhere between annoyance and down right pissed off.
On moving to the right side of the line:
"I'm not going to lie to you. I'm not happy about it. But I'm just trying to be a team player . . . It's different when you play three years in college at left (tackle) and seven years in the league on the left and then in the eighth year you have to switch. It's something I have to get used to."
On last season:
". . . nobody still knows what really happened last year. First, I have personal problems, then I'm back at practice the next day. You do the math. Then I (reportedly) have problems in the locker room but then (it's reported) everybody loves me in the locker room. You know what I'm saying? People are doing a lot of guessing and wishy-washy stuff. People will write things. I don't know what you wrote, but I've been staying away from that and those types of questions because you can just go back to your sources."
One his mental state now:
"I'm under contract. I'm a loyal guy, so I'm going to carry out my contract and do my duty as a 49er. That's where it is."
On the injuries:
"Being hurt . . . I don't worry about things I don't control. People say this and say that, but everything I've been out for I've had to have surgery for. What can I do about that? Two shoulder surgeries, hand, ankles. If you play a violent game violently, man, of course something's going to come out of it. But I can't stop this guy from rolling me up in the back. That stuff is unavoidable. If I got caught up in that and worried about all of that, I'd probably have same amount of gray hairs you have . . .
If you're going to put out all that stuff . . . the Ronnie Lott thing and what he heard, that I don't get along . . . well, why am I around? I was just a permanent captain a year ago, and now I'm the scapegoat? It doesn't add up to me."
On dealing with the negative talk:
"Some (expletive) you just don't hear. There's no negative in my mind. You know what I mean? People are going to have their opinions and think what they want to think. If I'm such a bad guy, why am I still around? That's the way I look at it. I know I didn't do anything, but be hurt. What can I do about that? Especially when I needed surgery for it? Everything I've been out for needed to be fixed. They can think what they want to think, but when I'm going, I'm going."
If you get a chance to read through the entire interview, I highly recommend it. While there is plenty left to inferrence, you can get a good idea of the mindset of Jennings. I think he was really convinced he was going to get cut by the 49ers at some point before training camp. Maybe I'm inferring too much from the conversation but it seems like he realizes the true business nature of it and he does not want to get emotionally invested in the team.
The team added Barry Sims in the offseason to compete at right tackle. I am certainly glad to have a capable replacement in case Jennings misses more time. However, I also think that if this o-line is to return to the form of 2006, Jennings needs to be the guy at right tackle. In 2006 he played in 13 games and the 49ers rushing attack reached record highs. It certainly was not all him, but he was an important key.
At 30 years of age, Jennings is in year 4 of the 7-year contract he signed. Considering he's never actually played a full season I'd like to think his tires aren't too worn down. Of course, the various surgeries certainly don't help. So I see two questions coming out of all this. First, what can the 49ers expect from Jonas Jennings this season and through the rest of his contract (or if he'll even last the final 4 years of his deal)? Second, can the 49ers put together a solid offensive line with Barry Sims (or anybody other than Jennings) manning the right tackle position, or is Jennings a significant cog in this machine?