GREEN BAY — After a brief acclamation period, Jordy Nelson appears to be on the verge of taking another major step in his return to the field.
While it’s unlikely the Packers’ Pro Bowl receiver will play in Thursday night’s preseason finale against Kansas City, Nelson told reporters Sunday that he’s expecting to participate in 11-on-11 team periods during practice this week.
It would be the first time Nelson has stepped on the field for full-speed work since he injured his left knee last August in Pittsburgh.
Nelson, activated from the physically unable to perform list on Aug. 17, only worked individual drills last week, along with running routes in pregame warmups before the Oakland and San Francisco preseason games.
With his eyes still set on the regular-season opener against Jacksonville on Sept. 11, Nelson is excited to expand his workload this week even if it is running the scout-team offense.
“I don’t think you’ll see anything different than a normal week for me,” Nelson said. “As far as I know I’ll be in team reps. Obviously it’ll be a little different because with the fourth preseason game we’ll probably be running the show team cards.
“At the end of the day, it’s running routes, catching balls and going against defenders, which is what we need.”
Nelson said he hasn’t been told yet for certain that he’ll sit out against the Chiefs, but that’s typically been how the Packers have handled their veterans in past preseason finales regardless of health.
Nelson reiterated he doesn’t have any “second thoughts” or concerns about running or cutting on his surgically reconstructed left knee. That’s been evident in how he’s approached practice in his first week back.
He feels he’s benefitted from the workouts prior to the Packers’ last two preseason games, treating them almost like another practice. There’s a sense of normalcy in jumping back into a pregame routine that’s nearly identical to what he’s always done.
Perhaps most importantly, the last week has given him a chance to regain his timing with quarterback Aaron Rodgers. In both public practices last week, Nelson and Rodgers independently worked together during a few periods.
“It’s important for Jordy to get a ton of work this week with Aaron,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “That’s really the focus. I feel very good about where he is. It’s just reps and the coordination with the concepts and what we’re preparing to do. I think Jordy looks great.”
The anticipation has been building for the veteran receiver after the year layoff, especially when the team started to dive into the preparation and installs for the Jaguars a little bit last week.
For some, it was just another day at the office, but it was more than that for Nelson. It provided a light at the end of what can be a tedious rehab process.
“That was exciting just to feel the different mindset and energy in the building, knowing it was a meaningful install and meaningful study there,” Nelson said. “It’s why we do all this work is to play on Sundays. When you don’t get to do that, it’s not that much fun.”
Nelson says he’ll be ready for the opener even if he doesn’t play this preseason. He barely played in the 2013 preseason prior to having 85 catches for 1,314 yards and eight touchdowns.
He’s sure there will be some butterflies when he finally steps on the field for an actual game. That’s the way he’s been, dating back to high school, but Nelson expects the nerves will go away soon enough.
“I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have them,” Nelson said. “I get them randomly throughout the season. If it’s a big game, a Monday night game, a big opponent, whatever it might be, playoff game, they come back every once in a while. I think it means you’re excited for the game.
“To me, it brings a little extra energy and extra excitement to it and they’re gone like that after one play.”
Clark not concerned: Rookie defensive lineman Kenny Clark doesn’t have any long-term concern with the back injury that forced him to miss practice last week.
Clark, who had two tackles in the Packers first two preseason games, didn’t make the trip to San Francisco due to the stress and discomfort that two four-hour plane rides could potentially place on his back.
If he doesn’t play against Kansas City, Clark feels his 39 defensive snaps this preseason have prepared him for the regular-season opener against Jacksonville, which he’s expecting to be back for.
“I feel pretty good,” Clark said. “I’m not concerned a lot about it. There’s a little tightness in my back. I’m just trying to get everything figured out.”
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