GREEN BAY – Jordy Nelson wanted nothing more than to be on the practice field Tuesday, cutting and running routes like the rest of the Packers’ healthy receivers.
Instead, his workout was mostly limited to stretching and running “routes on air” independently in lieu of on-field action during the first public practice of organized team activities.
While Nelson’s surgically repaired knee feels good to go, he understands the team’s reluctance to push him out of the recovery nest. They don’t hand out Lombardi trophies in May. It’s about making sure he’s 100 percent when it counts.
“Everything I’m doing I’m comfortable with,” Nelson said. “I’m not worried about anything else. We’re still progressing and dealing with the situation that we’re in. Obviously, we don’t need to push it too much. We’re still in May. Our goal is obviously August and September.”
Nelson alluded to a potentially light schedule at OTAs when he met with the Green Bay media at the start of the offseason program, saying his participation would be “up for discussion.”
Right now, it’s all about finding a happy medium between Nelson’s ambitions and erring on the side of caution. Individually, Nelson has no limitations in what he’s able to do.
He can run, lift and perform every drill the training staff asks of him. Mentally, Nelson is sharper than ever. He credits that to first-year receivers coach Luke Getsy, who was an offensive quality control assistant the past two seasons.
“Getting the training down, Luke is doing a great job with us and our footwork, and teaching us new things,” Nelson said. “I’m trying to learn those. It takes repetition and getting into rhythm. It’s just where you want to be. You want to be catching balls from (quarterbacks) and not just running routes on air for fun.”
Nelson doesn’t anticipate having to take any extra precautions with the knee once he does return full-time. His biggest thing is fine-tuning his routes and redeveloping chemistry with quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers’ time as the Packers’ starting quarterback runs concurrently with Nelson’s eight seasons in Green Bay. A vast majority of Nelson’s 400 career receptions for 6,109 yards and 49 touchdowns have been delivered from the two-time MVP.
Still, both admit it’ll take time to get back into a rhythm, picking up on subtle body language and relearning break points in his routes.
“We missed a year together, so there will be some extra time we’ll put together working on stuff and the little nuances that we added,” Rodgers said. “We’ll put in the necessary time to make sure we’re on the same page.”
Coach Mike McCarthy said after Tuesday’s practice that Nelson is “right on schedule” with the plan focusing his work on individual drills for the time being.
However, McCarthy added that nothing is finalized about his participation during the final two weeks of OTAs and next month’s mini-camp.
To Getsy, the most impressive part of Nelson’s recovery since he tore his ACL in Pittsburgh last August is how quickly he attacked his rehab.
Coming off a 1,500-yard receiving season, Nelson didn’t stew over what his encore might have entailed. He immediately turned his focus to getting back on the field.
“He didn’t seem like he had that period of pout, if that’s the right word,” Getsy said. “He took it as a challenge and he’s knocked it out of the park every single day. He’s working his tail off. He’s going to do everything he can to get ready to go.”
Nelson isn’t the only Packers receiver awaiting clearance. Ty Montgomery also sat out of Tuesday’s practice as he recovers from season-ending ankle surgery. Like Nelson, he’s happy with his rehab and anxious to get back on the field.
When exactly that will be for Nelson is yet to be determined, but he says he’ll be ready whenever that day finally arrives.
“We said OTAs was going to be up for debate and there’s a lot more higher-ups than me,” Nelson said. “Obviously, they’re being smart and they’re probably doing the right thing. But you always push the limit.”