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Seven years into his career, Jordy Nelson knows how the business works.

The NFL isn't conducive to long-standing friendships. Players come and go, becoming free agents and switching teams. The cycle is unending, but some goodbyes are tougher than others.

For Nelson, it was difficult to see former teammate James Jones leave the Green Bay Packers this offseason.

"Miss him and his family," Nelson said this week. "His wife and my wife got to know each other. Miss his kids. It's part of the game, but excited to see him."

Packers players will reunite with former teammates when they host the Oakland Raiders in their third preseason game 7 p.m. tonight. Safety Charles Woodson, who Packers linebacker Brad Jones called a "walking legend," will make his first appearance at Lambeau Field since being released 18 months ago.

On the other side of the ball, Jones will play his first game in Green Bay as an opponent.

Nelson said earlier this week he wanted to have dinner with Jones on Thursday night, but the Raiders team plane would arrive too late. He'll make a special effort to seek out Jones before kickoff tonight, just to show his appreciation.

Asked what he missed about Jones, Nelson couldn't settle on one thing.

"One, just his personality," Nelson said. "He's a guy who always kept it light in the meeting rooms and the locker room. Accountability. He's a guy who took everything to heart. He felt like he could've made every play out there, even if it was almost impossible. He held himself to that standard, which raised everyone else in our room."

Having a presence is one thing. Jones also produced.

His 14 touchdown receptions in 2012 led the NFL. In all, the former third-round pick from San Jose State caught 310 passes for 4,305 yards and 37 touchdowns in his seven seasons with the Packers.

He also earned quarterback Aaron Rodgers' trust.

"James is a talented guy," Rodgers said. "I loved his presence in the locker room. I loved the way that he practiced. He's a guy who you knew would go up and get the ball. He made some incredible catches in his time here."

-rwood@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @ByRyanWood

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