GREEN BAY—Three years ago, Packers receiver Jordy Nelson put up Pro Bowl numbers, with more than 1,200 yards and 15 touchdowns.
The problem was 277 yards and five TDs came in the final two games, after all the voting had been tabulated.
This year, Nelson finally earned his first Pro Bowl selection with plenty of big games throughout the season. He was one of five Packers on Tuesday to be selected to the NFL’s annual all-star game, along with quarterback Aaron Rodgers, guard Josh Sitton, fullback John Kuhn and linebacker Clay Matthews.
“After the last couple of years, there was a possibility and it hadn’t happened, so I don’t think you ever get your hopes too high just because you never know what the voting will be,” Nelson said. “I just tried to stay focused and keep working hard and hopefully it would happen.”
With 1,433 receiving yards this season, Nelson needs just 65 in Sunday’s regular-season finale to break the franchise’s single-season mark held by Robert Brooks (1,497 in 1995). Nelson also needs eight receptions to become the first Packers receiver with 100 catches in a season since Brooks in ’95, and his seven 100-yard games this season are tied for second-most in one year in team history.
"To be honored with a Pro Bowl selection, I don’t know how to explain it,” Nelson said. “It’s just great to be recognized by your peers, coaches and fans for what you are able to do on the field and what our team has been able to do on the field. The recognition comes with the team’s success.”
Rodgers was the top vote-getter in the league in the fan voting, earning his fourth Pro Bowl bid, and he could be headed for a second league MVP award, as he ranks second in passer rating, third in TD passes and has thrown the fewest interceptions of any full-season starter. While “honored” as the top vote-getter, he said he was “even happier” for teammates like Nelson and Kuhn.
Matthews leads this year’s group with his fifth selection. It’s the second for both Sitton and Kuhn.
The four offensive players are the most the Packers have had since their record-setting year of 2011, when Nelson probably deserved to be a fifth.
“Without a doubt, the key to our success this year has been everybody pulling their weight,” Rodgers said. “It is fun to know those guys will be there, but hopefully we are not playing in the game.”
That’s because the Pro Bowl is played the week before the Super Bowl, and Super Bowl participants do not attend.
Sitton was an alternate when he went to the Pro Bowl the first time, in 2012, and he said it “absolutely” means more to be an initial selection this time.
“It very much does,” he said. “I might have told you it didn’t before, but that would have been a lie.”
Kuhn, who was one of Green Bay’s four offensive selections back in 2011, was the leading vote-getter at fullback in the fan voting, which he appreciated.
“It meant a lot and it says a lot for ‘Packer Nation,’ how dedicated they are to the players and showing their support,” he said.
Matthews earned another Pro Bowl nod in the midst of his most challenging year, moving to inside linebacker in certain packages midway through the season to help beef up the Packers’ run defense. Earlier this week, Head Coach Mike McCarthy called this the best season of Matthews’ career, given everything he’s been asked to do.
“It really allowed me to showcase my talents as well as help this defense in different ways,” said Matthews, who reached double digit sacks this past weekend for the fourth time in his career.
“I take pride in my abilities out there whether it’s rushing the passer, stopping the run or playing man to man. I think it’s been fun for me to learn a new position and really allow my football acumen to kind of build a little more. I think it will only help me out later on in my career.”
The only season in his career Matthews hasn’t made the Pro Bowl was last year, when he missed roughly half the season with a broken thumb.
Seven Packers were named Pro Bowl alternates. Two of them are left tackle David Bakhtiari and right guard T.J. Lang, meaning three-fifths of the Packers offensive line earned some recognition.
“I feel like you could stick our whole line in the Pro Bowl and everyone would fit right in,” Sitton said. “I think to a man we are one of the top few in our positions, every single one of us. We’ve got a heck of a line and hopefully we’ll be able to stay healthy and stick together.”
The other five alternates are running back Eddie Lacy, receiver Randall Cobb, linebacker Julius Peppers, and cornerbacks Sam Shields and Tramon Williams.
Of the alternate group, Peppers (eight times), Lacy (2013) and Williams (2010) have earned Pro Bowl honors before.
Related: Packers Pro Bowl selections, year by year