Life after Jordy Nelson begins now for the Green Bay Packers.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy spoke to the media before practice on Tuesday morning, one day after MRI results confirmed the Pro Bowl wide receiver will miss the 2015 season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in Sunday’s 24-19 preseason loss to Pittsburgh.
As disappointing as it is to lose the 6-foot-3, 217-pound Nelson, an eight-year veteran, McCarthy made one thing clear during his 13-minute news conference – the goals haven’t changed for the Packers’ offense.
“It’s part of our game,” McCarthy said. “From a personal standpoint, you feel bad for Jordy, particularly his case of coming off (hip) surgery last year. I just think back to February, March, April when no one’s here and he’s in here every day. It’s tough.
“It’s a tough blow to our football, but as we spoke in the team meeting: Nothing’s changed. Our goal hasn’t changed. When things like this happen, a good system with a good football team, adjustments are made. So we will adjust and keep moving.”
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The Packers have two proven receiving options in Randall Cobb and Davante Adams, but will need at a young player from the group of third-round rookie Ty Montgomery, Jeff Janis and Myles White to step up in Nelson’s stead.
“We had areas of our team that played very well. We had areas of our team that didn’t play very well,” McCarthy said. “The receiver group in particular, they need to pick it up. So the younger guys in that group, it’s a training camp of opportunity that they need to take more advantage of.”
McCarthy said Nelson was in better spirits on Tuesday and still taking part in team meetings. Although the Packers will be without his on-field leadership, he expects Nelson to continue to be a respected voice in the locker room during his rehab.
As for on the field, McCarthy still has high expectations for an offense that returns 10 of 11 preferred starters from last year’s unit that led the NFL in scoring.
“The goals are the same, our team identity is the same,” McCarthy said. “How we want to play, the style of football we want to play, the important building blocks of how we go about our business each and every day, that will not change.”
Here are a few other highlights from McCarthy’s news conference:
On moving on without Nelson:
I think first off you have to recognize the fact that Jordy is, he is what you look for as far as a Green Bay Packer. When you have the opportunity to build a program, a championship program, and you talk about what you want your players to look like, act like, he’s a prime example of that. He’s a great husband, great teammate, obviously an outstanding football player, but these things happen. You don’t know why. It’s part of it. It’s part of our game.
On the team:
We need to improve. There’s things that went on in the Pittsburgh game that were really good. There’s things that didn’t go so well, but part of that is football and part of that is preseason football. But we had way too many mental errors, things that just don’t belong (as) part of what we’re trying to do. That’s what we’re focused on as a team. We want to improve. We’ll have a light practice today just to give some guys a chance to recover from Sunday’s game. It was a hot game. It was an early afternoon game, so we’ll get back on track. We’re working on Philadelphia. We’ve had a chance to clean up the Pittsburgh film this morning and we’ll be ready to go Saturday night. Looking forward to play at Lambeau Field.
On T.J. Lang and Scott Tolzien’s condition:
T.J. is going through the concussion protocol and Scott Tolzien is also going through the concussion protocol.
On backup wide receivers Jeff Janis, Ty Montgomery and Myles White:
Well, I think all three of those guys understand the opportunity that was in front of them before Sunday’s game. So regardless of what happened to Jordy, you’re talking about three men that played a lot of football. Practiced a lot. Played a lot of football as far as getting ready for New England, and they’re going to play even more football come Saturday night against Philadelphia. So yeah, I think it’s loud and clear the opportunity that’s in front of them.
On wide receiver Jared Abbrederis’ condition:
Jared is still going through the concussion protocol. I knew on the field when he fell that it was serious. I was hoping it was his back, so he's still working his way through it.
On whether safety Morgan Burnett has returned from a personal matter:
Morgan, he has returned from Atlanta.
On left tackle David Bakhtiari's status after missing Sunday's game because of a knee injury:
David Bakhtiari, just spoke to him earlier, he's improving and based on the path and the plan for him this week, if he gets to the point, I wouldn't be comfortable playing him without practice, so I think tomorrow's practice will be important. Friday will be the shorter practice, so he needs to get on the practice field.
On the plans for left tackle:
Ah, we'll see. We'll have a lot of work today. Donnie Barclay needs to work so, Josh had a chance to get out there, Jeremy, so we'll continue to work those guys.
On how Nelson is dealing with his injury:
Jordy is doing better today, saw him earlier. We'll see. Sunday was a tough day for him, and rightfully so. Any time you're thinking the worse and then you have to wait 'til Monday to go through the testing and then it was confirmed. That was a tough 24 hours.
On quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ wrist:
He’s doing OK. I anticipate he’ll practice today.
On losing Nelson’s leadership:
Knowing Jordy, Jordy’s still here. Jordy’s still early to the team meeting. He’s going through rehab. He’s an old-school pro. He’ll do everything that he possibly can to not only start his recovery and help us as a football team. Jordy’s still around. He’s still here.
On whether Nelson wanted to play through it:
Those discussions are really between the medical staff and Jordy.
On whether it makes him rethink using starters in preseason:
What would you want me to do? … I mean the injury occurred on the first series of the game. It was unfortunate. When you go back and look at it, it’s just one of those things. If you’re asking my opinion on how many preseason games and things like that, those are really offseason discussions. We have four preseason games this year and we’re preparing for our third.
On Rodgers’ comments about preseason being meaningless:
Trust me, I completely understand Aaron’s opinion. We talk about a lot of things. This is the game of football. You have to play, whether it’s two games or three games and things like that. Those are all discussions that I’m a part of with Mark Murphy and we try to have a better understanding of philosophy moving forward. You’re getting the team ready to play. We hit our target in New England, even more so, frankly, as far as the number of plays. The medical report does factor into your path through training camp. You’re aware of that and it will affect the way we play the game Saturday.
On Rodgers’ condition:
Aaron’s hand and Josh Sitton has an ankle. Just felt it was time (to take him out of the Steelers game). And frankly, Scott Tolzien, that’s exactly what he needs. We talked about it in the locker room, myself and a couple of the other coaches, to give make sure I got Matt (Blanchard) another opportunity in the fourth quarter. With that being said, the reps for the quarterbacks worked out the way we … in hindsight is what we were looking for.
On Brett Hundley and Matt Blanchard getting more reps with Tolzien out:
This is a huge week for Brett Hundley and Matt and the fact that they’re going to be playing against potentially Philadelphia’s No. 1s – I don’t know what their plan is and it’s irrelevant to what our plan’s going to be. But this is a big, big week for our young guys on offense. They’re going to be playing against top competition and this will be great evaluation for us.
On preparing for Philadelphia’s read-option office:
Absolutely. We have a period every practice in training camp that we work those types of offensive concepts because they are more challenging when you play them. Football’s a game of numbers. When you run the football, the offense is playing 10 on 11 with some form of fake from the quarterback. When you enter the quarterback into the equation as a potential runner, now it’s 11 on 11. As far as your gap definition and your support definition and your assignments and things like that, there’s an adjustment there. So you have to work it. It’s different. It’s been in the league now for a couple of years. My first, I don’t know, 15, 18 years in the league, it didn’t exist. Now it’s here, so you have to practice against it. If the other team has a guy with the ball in his hand, we’re going to hit him. We’re going to hit him and tackle him. That’s all part of your run defense.
On linebacker Clay Matthews, who's been bothered by an elbow injury:
Hoping he can do more. He’s progressing, talking with the medical staff this week. We’ll see what he does today.