GREEN BAY - Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson will practice Monday for the first time since tearing an anterior cruciate ligament in an exhibition game in August of 2015.
“He’ll go through the individual (drills) and then we’ll kind of take it from there,” coach Mike McCarthy said Saturday. “So first things first.”
Nelson began training camp on the physically unable to perform list after a small setback involving his left knee, the one that was not operated on last year. Though Nelson downplayed the severity of the new injury — he described it as a “hiccup” — it sidelined him for the first three weeks of camp, during which time he missed 12 practices.
Nelson passed his physical Wednesday to join guard T.J. Lang, linebacker Sam Barrington, wide receiver Ty Montgomery and tight end Jared Cook as players who were cleared after starting camp on the PUP list.
Center Corey Linsley (hamstring) is the only player yet to earn medical clearance.
Nelson enjoyed a brief cameo at Lambeau Field on Thursday when the Packers hosted the Oakland Raiders. Though he did not play, Nelson donned his jersey and pads to warm up with the rest of the receivers.
“It’s another step in the right direction,” Nelson said Thursday night. “Another step in the plan that we have to be ready for Jacksonville. We’ll just continue to work that way.”
The Packers will practice Monday and Tuesday before traveling to California to play the San Francisco 49ers in their third exhibition game. The third game is typically a landmark denoting the heaviest workload for the starters, who sometimes remain on the field well into the second half. It is often their final test before sitting out the finale to avoid injury.
But what McCarthy chooses to do with Nelson, who has not played in a meaningful game since the 2014 NFC championship game in Seattle, remains unclear. McCarthy was non-committal Saturday when asked if Nelson would appear in a game with quarterback Aaron Rodgers prior to the regular-season opener Sept. 11.
“That’s really something that we’ll probably need to answer down the road,” McCarthy said. “I think it’s important to stay focused on the fact that Jordy’s going to practice Monday for the first time. It will be in the individual drills (with) the emphasis there, the normal protocol that you want to bring guys back. Obviously, his veteran experience will factor into that.
“Aaron and Jordy will work as much as they possibly can on one-on-one routes and things like that. We’ve got a plan. We’ll start that plan and based on how it works out (in terms of) play time, I can’t really answer that question.”
That McCarthy stressed the importance of practice reps and not game reps introduces the possibility that Nelson might not play at all during the exhibition season. Rodgers almost certainly will sit out the exhibition finale against the Kansas City Chiefs, which leaves Friday’s game in San Francisco as the only opportunity for quarterback and receiver to work together.
Not only would it be an extremely fast turnaround for Nelson, who would have only two practices to prepare, but there's no guarantee Rodgers will play against the 49ers, either.
“I don’t know where they’re at with that discussion,” Nelson said. “It’s obviously not up to me. I know it’s in discussion what the plan is the rest of the way, and we’re taking as we go through. I mean, we can’t predict the future, so obviously we’ll take this week’s practice and see how everything goes and we’ll continue to move forward.
“We can do a lot of work in here and inside the (Don) Hutson Center. Like I said, our goal is Week 1 and we’re right where we want to be and need to be and have time to get there.”
Slow walk: Offensive lineman Josh Walker passed through the locker room Saturday with a black sleeve on his right knee and one crutch for balance. When he moved without the crutch, his gait had a serious limp.
“It’s tender,” Walker said. “I’m not going to lie.”
Walker suffered a right knee injury on the final drive against the Raiders. Lined up at right guard, Walker generated a good push and moved toward the second level before getting tripped up in a tangle of legs.
Walker’s right knee bent awkwardly as he fell. He remained on the ground for several seconds before teammates helped him to his feet. He stayed on the field for the final two snaps and completed the game.
Afterward, Walker strapped a large bag of ice to his knee and was cursing in frustration inside the locker room.
If severe, the injury to Walker complicates the depth along the offensive line. Walker made the 53-man roster last season as a backup guard who, in a pinch, offers three- or four-position versatility. The coaches moved him outside to tackle during camp last season, and Walker handled himself reasonably well in August and September.
This year, Walker has split reps between guard and right tackle. He played both positions in the most recent exhibition game against the Raiders and has a legitimate chance to make the roster for a second year in a row.
Not again: Tight end Mitchell Henry suffered a broken finger for the second consecutive training camp after it got caught in an opponent's facemask against the Raiders. Henry wore a split in the locker room Saturday morning.
An undrafted free agent from Western Kentucky, Henry went through camp with the Packers last season before eventually signing to the practice squad. He overcame a broken finger on his other hand to catch the attention of the coaching staff, even while wearing a club.
“I never broke a finger before and now it happens two years in a row,” Henry said.
It has not been decided whether Henry will wear a club this week in practice.