GREEN BAY – Jordy Nelson began doing practice drills this week for the first time following offseason hip surgery, and the Packers’ star receiver is on track to be full-go when training camp begins in late July.
“We’re right where we want to be,” Nelson said following Wednesday’s OTA practice at Clarke Hinkle Field. “We set a plan out at the beginning, and we’re hitting every target. We’ll be ready to go by training camp.”
Nelson is not participating in 11-on-11 work yet, only individual drills, but he said he feels great. Throughout the OTAs, he has assumed the role of mentor, holding his own play sheet as the offense runs through the script and making himself available to any of the younger receivers who have questions.
He has enjoyed that perspective, but he’s also glad to be moving on soon from all the rehab and mental reps. Time will tell if he’s even more active during next week’s minicamp.
“I think Jordy’s going to be fine, once we get to training camp,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “The amount of work he’s put into his rehab, he’s been on time the whole time. This is all part of the plan, how he’s being handled these first couple weeks and how he’ll be handled next week.”
Minicamp will serve as a review of the scheme installations that have gone on through OTAs, and then the players will break for six weeks before the start of training camp.
At that time, competition for roster spots and within the depth chart will begin in earnest.
Backup quarterback Scott Tolzien will be looking to nail down the No. 2 job behind Aaron Rodgers, which appears to be his to lose based on his work in the OTAs.
For the second straight week in a practice open to reporters, Tolzien led a successful two-minute drill for a touchdown. On Wednesday, he concluded a 65-yard drive with two “big-time throws,” according to McCarthy – both middle seam passes to the tight end from about 25 yards out.
The first was threaded tightly to Kennard Backman, but the rookie sixth-round draft pick couldn’t quite corral it at the goal line. Tolzien came right back with a similar throw on the next play – a do-or-die fourth down with just a few seconds on the clock – and undrafted rookie Mitchell Henry went up in traffic to haul it in for the score.
As is his nature, Tolzien wasn’t getting caught up in the praise afterward, but his progress and command of the offense are obvious.
“You appreciate it, but I also realize it’s just one day,” he said. “I don’t want to make too much of it. It was a good day, but I’ve got another day tomorrow, so I just have to keep getting better.”
Tolzien feels his biggest area of improvement over the past year has been learning the pass-protection calls, a struggle for him when he first dove into Green Bay’s offense in 2013.
“You have to know where you’re protected and where you’re not, and the adjustments to make,” he said. “There’s a lot on the quarterback’s plate, but I think I’ve learned to appreciate that.”
Tolzien’s approach is to constantly learn, and the preseason will be his next chance to show how much his game has grown. Called a “gym rat” by Rodgers, for always being around the facility studying or working on something, Tolzien has taken a positive first impression from two years ago and made it a more long-lasting one.
“His approach is what really separates him,” Rodgers said. “He’s put himself in great position to make a career for himself.”