GREEN BAY – It was a simple statement, but it was all that Packers fans needed to hear from receiver Jordy Nelson.
“We’re right where we want to be,” Nelson said of his ACL rehab on Monday.
On the first day of the Packers’ offseason program, and with his first public comments since undergoing season-ending knee surgery last year, Nelson wasn’t going to predict when he’ll be 100 percent or make any grand pronouncement about what he’ll do on the field in 2016.
That’s not his style. In his understated way, he talked about not having any “mental blocks” through the rehab process and not worrying about losing a step. He thanked Dr. Pat McKenzie, who performed his surgery, as well as the rest of the medical team, including head athletic trainer Bryan Engel and assistant athletic trainer Nate Weir, for all their help and support throughout.
Monday was just another day for Nelson in his long road back, but he gave no indication he won’t be ready when it counts in Week 1 and back to his old self for the rest of his career, barring any other freakish occurrences mirroring the one at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field last August.
“I’ve attacked the rehab the way I’ve wanted to,” said Nelson, who will turn 31 next month. “We’ll do everything we can to make sure I’m ready to go.
“I’ve had guys tell me if you can take a year off from football, why not be year eight, get a little rest and come back for nine through 12 or so.”
Perhaps the teammate most excited about Nelson’s return is quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The Packers’ offense obviously struggled without Nelson in 2015, but Rodgers was playing it cool on Monday as well.
“We’re not going to make any wild predictions or expectations on him,” Rodgers said. “We’re going to let him get healthy, as slow as he wants to. He’s a premier player and a great locker room guy.”
Nelson stayed in Green Bay and with the team all last season, attending meetings with the receivers when he could.
Nelson and Randall Cobb are the only receivers possessing more than two years of experience, so the group remains young, and it’ll now have a new full-time position coach in Luke Getsy. With Davante Adams, Jeff Janis and Jared Abbrederis entering their third years, and Ty Montgomery going into his second, Nelson’s influence on the development of the receiving corps could be even more significant once he’s back on the field full-go.
“I think that was one place they missed last year was not having Jordy out there, because the way he practices really sets the tempo and gives you a great look at what greatness looks like in practice every single day,” Rodgers said. “Those practice habits are invaluable.”
Nelson learned them from veterans like Donald Driver and Greg Jennings when he arrived eight years ago. He watched and emulated, and while Rodgers also puts Cobb in that veteran example category, Nelson’s presence this season may have an impact beyond Sundays.
“If I think back to Donald and Greg, it wasn’t so much what they said as how they went about work,” Nelson said. “Donald never missed practice. That showed a lot about being a pro and going about your job and being productive.”
That’s what Nelson wants to get back to. He’s not there yet, calling September the “ultimate target date,” but at this point there’s no reason to think he won’t hit it.
“I’m excited to play,” he said. “I think I said when (the injury) happened it would be the first time in 18 years I hadn’t played football in the fall. I’m excited to get back out there. I told my wife I’m excited to be sore. It’s a good sore to have. We look forward to that, but again, it’s a long ways away.”