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Insider: Nelson keeps Rodgers on target

Aug. 13, 2012
 

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Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers drops back to pass during training camp practice Monday at Ray Nitschke Field. H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette

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Aaron Rodgers has been without two of his favorite targets, receiver Greg Jennings and tight end Jermichael Finley.

With Jennings sidelined with a concussion and Finley out with a quad injury, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if the starting offense sputtered in practice.

But it hasn’t, largely because of emerging star Jordy Nelson.

The quarterback-to-receiver chemistry that Rodgers has developed with Nelson has been noticeable throughout training camp and was on display again Monday during a brief no-huddle period — the only team period that featured offensive starters against defensive starters. The period was brief because Rodgers and Nelson ended it so quickly.

Starting at their 30, Rodgers threw incomplete on first down, then threw a swing pass to Donald Driver for 7 yards on second down. On third-and-3, he hit Nelson on a back-shoulder fade for 18 yards along the right sideline against cornerback Tramon Williams. On the next snap, he called for Nelson to run a post against cornerback Jarrett Bush. Nelson beat Bush off the line, and Rodgers hit him in stride for a 45-yard catch-and-run touchdown that ended the drill.

After Nelson’s breakout season in 2011, when he set career highs in catches (68), yards (1,263) and touchdowns (15), he and Rodgers look like their connection is as sharp as ever.

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The Packers haven’t practiced for more than an hour and 50 minutes in more than a week.

Injuries again caused coach Mike McCarthy to shut things down early. There was a 20-minute team (11-on-11) period scheduled to finish practice, and equipment assistant Tim Odea even called out for the period to begin before McCarthy asked for the horn that signifies the end of practice.

The problem Monday was a lack of running backs. Fullback John Kuhn left late in practice with an ankle injury, leaving the Packers with three available backs — Alex Green, Marc Tyler and Nic Cooper.

The practice ended after just 1 hour, 48 minutes. That followed workouts of 1:44 on Sunday, 1:35 on Saturday, 1:49 last Tuesday and 1:44 last Monday. That’s a far cry from the 2 hours and 45 minutes that practices lasted the first week or so.

Two of those practices were short by design, but the others were cut short because of injuries.

“I thought it was a heck of a practice just from an operation standpoint, but when John went down, I just didn’t think it was worth the risk to try to get through the last team period with three running backs,” McCarthy said. “And whatever practice we had to cut back before, the injuries were just starting to pile up on us.”

Did you notice?

• For just the second time, rookie outside linebacker Nick Perry beat right tackle Bryan Bulaga in a one-on-one rep. Perry overpowered Bulaga and knocked him down. Bulaga’s only two losses in camp have come to Perry. However, before that rep, Perry appeared to jump offsides twice.

Inside linebacker Jamari Lattimore, who moved from outside linebacker this offseason, had a nice breakup on the first play of the no-huddle period on a pass intended for tight end Tom Crabtree.

• Receiver Tori Gurley flattened rookie cornerback Dion Turner during a team period. Gurley caught a pass over the middle, then barreled over Turner.

• Cornerback Davon House wasn’t wearing the protective sling on the left shoulder he injured in the preseason opener at San Diego, but he still wasn’t able to practice.

rdemovsk@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @RobDemovsky.

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