GREEN BAY — The comeback is complete.
Packers WR Jordy Nelson was named the Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year during Saturday night’s NFL Honors ceremony after bouncing back from a season-ending knee injury in 2015 to lead the NFL with 14 touchdown receptions.
The ninth-year receiver missed the entire 2015 campaign after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in a preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Aug. 20, 2015.
Nelson was joined at the NFL Honors ceremony by his wife, Emily, and Packers WR Randall Cobb.
"This is an extremely great honor to be up here in front of all these great players, present and former guys," said Nelson during his acceptance speech. "I want to thank our athletic trainers with the Packers, Nate (Weir) and (Bryan) Flea (Engel). The last two years they’ve done a lot of work to get me on the field and keep me on the field.
"To be able to be out there again this year and play in all 16 (regular-season) games was an honor and you realize how much you miss it when you miss a whole season. My wife, my two boys who are back home, thanks for being patient. I probably spent about three or four months on crutches. That’s not great when you have a 7-year-old, but they’ll understand."
Nelson sat out the entire 2016 preseason, but played 1,014 of a possible 1,086 offensive snaps during 16 regular-season starts after returning to the field Week 1 against Jacksonville.
It didn’t take long for the former Pro Bowler to revert back to his old playmaking ways in leading the Packers with 97 receptions for 1,257 yards. He caught a touchdown in 11 games, which was two more than any other player.
Nelson only got better as the season progressed, with three of his five 100-yard performances coming in the final five games of the regular season.
“I don't know how much more Jordy needs to prove,” said Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy following Nelson’s eight-catch, 118-yard showing against Houston on Dec. 4.
“He’s going through what every great player goes through in that first year back from major injury. He practices every day, and those are the little things that are probably most important because I think his performance speaks for itself.”
Nelson led the NFL in red-zone catches (19), red-zone receiving yards (127) and red-zone touchdowns, three more than any other player in the league. His 11 red-zone touchdowns matched the best mark by a Packer since STATS began recording red-zone TDs in 1991 (11 TDs by WRs James Jones in 2012 and Sterling Sharpe in 1994).
He and quarterback Aaron Rodgers also reset the franchise record for most regular-season touchdowns between a Packers quarterback and receiver (59).
“You run out of ways to compliment him because he’s such a good teammate,” said Rodgers after Nelson’s nine catches for 156 yards and two touchdowns against Minnesota on Dec. 24.
“He does so many things exceptional with his route-running, catching the ball and his second and third reactions. Just his feel. It’s fun to be in the record books with such a great guy and great teammate.”
A first alternate for the Pro Bowl, Nelson snagged his longest catch of the season with a 60-yard reception against Chicago in Week 15 that set up Mason Crosby’s game-winning field goal from 32 yards.
Nelson sustained broken ribs 16 snaps into the Packers’ NFC Wild Card playoff game against the Giants, causing him to miss the following week’s game against the Dallas Cowboys.
However, Nelson was back on the field the following week for the NFC Championship Game in Atlanta. Wearing additional padding underneath his No. 87 jersey, Nelson caught Rodgers’ first two passes for 42 yards en route to breaking the franchise record with 54 career postseason catches.
“It’s what we needed. It’s what we needed from him,” said tight end Jared Cook afterward. “It takes heart and it takes a lot of pride for a man to come out and step up, and come back when he did not have to. That shows a lot about his character and the type of man he is.”