The Green Bay Packers’ worst fears were realized Monday.
Pro Bowl receiver Jordy Nelson will miss the entire 2015 season after “sustaining a significant right knee” injury in the first quarter of Sunday’s 24-19 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team announced.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said afterward the 30-year-old receiver was scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday to determine the extent of the injury. Those tests showed Nelson tore his anterior cruciate ligament and had no further structural damage, according to ESPN.
“Thank you to my family, the Packers, my friends, my partners and Packers fans everywhere for your thoughts and prayers,” Nelson said in a statement posted on his Facebook page. “I appreciate your loyalty and support and am looking forward to helping the team however I can as we focus on an exciting season ahead of us.”
The injury didn’t come as a result of contact. Nelson fell to the ground after landing awkwardly on an 8-yard reception from Aaron Rodgers on the sixth play of the Packers’ first offensive series. He walked to the locker room on his own power, but never returned.
Nelson will soon undergo reconstructive knee surgery and faces a six-to-12 month recovery.
“Things happen,” said general manager Ted Thompson during an appearance Monday on WTAQ radio. “There’s no rationale behind it. You can’t understand how something like that can happen on a play as simple as it was, but that’s life in the NFL sometimes. Life in the NFL sometimes is who’s the next man up. That’s what we’ll start focusing on.
“Certainly, we’re not in any position where we think we can necessarily replace Jordy. Jordy is a wonderful player, wonderful person in the community and everything else. He’ll continue to do that, but maybe we find two or three guys who can fill the role that he played.”
Poised to return all 11 preferred starters, the Packers will need to lean on Cobb and their 2014 draft class of receivers Davante Adams and Jeff Janis and tight end Richard Rodgers to help pick up Nelson’s lost production. Third-round rookie Ty Montgomery also could take on a larger role.
Nelson finished seventh in the league with 98 catches, fourth with 1,519 yards and tied for second with 13 touchdowns. In 2014, he and Randall Cobb became the first teammates in NFL history to each register 90-plus receptions, 1,200-plus receiving yards and 12-plus touchdowns in the same season.
He underwent hip surgery in the offseason to correct an impingement that was bothering him, but this will be the first extended action he'll miss in-season. Nelson has missed only seven regular-season games due to injury. He sat out three games in 2009 because of a knee injury and another four games in 2012 beacuse of a strained hamstring.
The Packers have three spots open on their 90-man roster if they want to add another receiver, though there aren’t many proven options available in free agency. Former Indianapolis Colts receiver Reggie Wayne reportedly was interested in the Packers, but signed with the New England Patriots on Monday.
Former Packers receiver James Jones could be an option if he doesn’t make the New York Giants’ roster. Jones, 31, spent his first seven seasons with the Packers before signing with Oakland last offseason. For now, it appears they will press forward with their core of young receivers.
“All we do over there at 1265 this time of the year is watch tape on other people and players and teams in the NFL,” Thompson said. “So we’re accumulating the knowledge of players at all different positions. We’re not singling out the wide receiver position just because this has happened. We’re just going about our business the way we’ve always went about our business.”
Nelson signed a four-year, $39 million extension with the Packers last summer. He has a $1.3 million base salary for 2015 on top of a $500,000 workout bonus, but he'll lose out on a $500,000 roster bonus that's paid out on a per-week basis.
Nelson's base salary jumps to $5.5 million in 2016. He can make an additional $1 million with the same workout and roster bonuses.
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.