SANTA CLARA — In the 49ers’ divisional playoff round win over the Green Bay Packers, wide receiver Jauan Jennings famously blocked cornerback Corey Ballentine all the way to the Gatorade tubs on the Packers’ sideline.
While the outside world might have been shocked or surprised, no one at the 49ers team headquarters blinked an eye. Jennings’ behavior is expected by coach Kyle Shanahan and his players.
“What he did on that, taking the guy into the Gatorade, it’s what he does every play out at practice,” Shanahan said on Wednesday. “Our defense tried to fight him all last year because they thought he was going above and beyond.
“The next day in the meeting I had to show them what he does every single play and say it’s not personal, this is just how he blocks. He stops after the whistle. He just drives into people, puts his face and hands into people and never stops. When it’s over, he usually goes back to the huddle. But usually people take it personal, but it’s not personal. That’s just what he does.”
Jennings is known for his fierce run blocking, as are all of the 49ers’ receivers. They easily get under their opponents’ skin while rarely, if ever, getting flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.
“He’s caused a lot,” Shanahan said. “But that’s kind of what I mean. That’s what I had to show our defense. That’s how he always is. You almost want to warn refs too because it looks like he’s going out there and doing it, he’s just playing to the whistle. He takes that whistle very literally. He’s playing until the whistle.
“Usually when that whistle comes, he’s in the middle of driving into someone. When that happens, they both end up on the ground.”
While Jennings causes frustration with his opponents, his play in the divisional round was a release of his own dissatisfaction with being away from the field since mid-December while in the league’s concussion protocol. When the 26-year-old finally was cleared to play, he announced to the media, “It’s about damn time.”
No matter the origin, Jennings’ defensive teammates enjoy seeing his antics during the games. They know all too well what it’s like to face off with the Tennessee product in practice, All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner included.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him dump anyone into the Gatorade in practice but that’s exactly who he is though and through,” Warner said. “He plays the game exactly the way that you want it to be played, especially at that position. I think he’s one of the best football players on our team.”
With wide receiver Deebo Samuel sidelined after sustaining a shoulder injury earlier in the game, Jennings stepped up as the “Z” receiver in his place. The third-year receiver caught five of his six targets for 61 receiving yards, four of which were for first downs.
“He doesn’t get all of the attention or the limelight but you know he’s going to be there in the clutch situations when you need him,” Warner said. “He is steady Eddie as it comes. Obviously, with the run game stuff and the pass game he is a complete player and I’m really happy he is on our side.”
Jennings, however, did receive a little flack from fellow receiver Brandon Aiyuk for being the player who made contact with the Gatorade table.
“I was messing with him ever since then because he took him all the way to the Gatorade table but he got turned at the last second so I was getting on him for that,” Aiyuk said. “But no, when he plays like that, our whole entire team feeds off of it. So when he’s blocking like that, that’s usually the. We are at our best.”
The 49ers will need Jennings’ energy in the NFC Championship Game at 3:30 p.m. PT on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium. His teammates have no doubt he will bring it.
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