Pete and Wes discuss the Packers' optimism for Jordy Nelson's recovery from ACL surgey and Eddie Lacy's improved conditioning. (April 18, 2016) USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
Between his rehab and training, Jordy Nelson hasn’t had much time for what-ifs.
Lofty words and headline-grabbing catchphrases are nice, but they won’t answer the nagging questions about whether the Green Bay Packers receiver will return to form in 2016 after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament last August in Pittsburgh. Only his play can do that.
All Nelson is concentrated on is his recovery timeline and taking the necessary steps to get back on the field. The rest is noise. Worrying about whether he’ll return to his Pro Bowl form is fruitless, especially in April.
“I think it’s a waste of time if you do,” said Nelson during the start of the team’s offseason program Monday. “Because if I do lose a step, there’s nothing I can do about it. I’ve attacked the rehab the way I wanted to; it’s progressed the way I wanted to. I continue to work out the way the coaches and trainers want me to. We’ll do everything we can to make sure I’m ready to go. For whatever reason, it’s not there, it’s not there.”
Nelson, who turns 31 next month, feels good about his forecast, though. His rehab has been on hyper-drive since team doctor, Patrick McKenzie, first performed the reconstructive knee surgery roughly seven months ago. Since that day, Nelson has been relentless in his recovery program.
The ninth-year receiver typically spends his offseason in Green Bay with his son now in school, though he playfully admits “I came into this building way too much. You’d like to get away a little bit.” Outside of an Easter trip to Kansas, his home has been the facilities at Lambeau Field.
The chance to stay connected with the staff made it worthwhile. Nelson credited trainers Nate Weir and Bryan “Flea” Engel for keeping his rehab program fresh, avoiding the tedious nature that accompanies lengthy recoveries. He doesn’t anticipate having any restrictions during the initial phase of the offseason program, which begins with a two-week strength-and-conditioning program.
How much he'll be able to do during the organized team activities remains uncertain. At least, publicly.
“OTAs will be still up for discussion on how much takes place there,” Nelson said. “We’ve been running. We’ve been lifting. We pretty much did the whole offseason program that they sent home with everyone else. So we’re right where we want to be. Look forward to continuing to progress, keeping track of it, and hopefully staying on the right path.”
Coming off a 1,500-yard season and his first Pro Bowl, Nelson was at the peak of his powers when he injured his knee last August. He wasn’t the only cause of the Packers’ offensive problems – they finished 25th in passing – but his absence certainly didn’t help matters on the perimeter.
There was a small silver lining in his rehab. By staying Green Bay, it gave him a chance to work with some of the team’s younger receivers and rest his body after playing in 105 of a possible 112 games during his first eight NFL seasons. All told, the past seven months haven't dragged along as much as he anticipated.
“I’ve had guys tell me if you can take a year off from football, why not be Year 8 and get a little rest and come back for nine through 12 or so?” Nelson quipped.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said at last month’s owners meetings that the offense needs to attack the middle of the field more this season if it’s going to be successful. Perhaps Nelson’s greatest contribution to the passing game is his ability to make plays both on the boundary and across the middle.
On paper, it should all add up to the Packers reestablishing their offense rhythm, especially with the recent addition of veteran tight end Jared Cook. It’ll come down to Nelson regaining his footing in the offense and young receivers such as Davante Adams, Jeff Janis, Jared Abbrederis and Ty Montgomery developing.
So what can fans expect from Nelson? He hopes his play on the field answers any and all questions.
“We’ll find out. It’s the unknown,” Nelson said. “We’re not there yet. We have a long ways to go. The ultimate target date is sometime in September and we’ll find out through those 16 games.”