GREEN BAY – There are so many moments that come to mind with Jordy Nelson.
It’s not about the stats. His numerous top-five rankings in team history are impressive and all, but it’s about the moments.
There was the catch-and-run touchdown at the Metrodome in early 2009, when all the attention was on Brett Favre vs. Aaron Rodgers, but it was a young, second-year receiver showing his first real flash of big-time playmaking ability.
Then there was the 80-yard touchdown the day after Christmas in 2010 on the opening drive of the Giants game, beginning the Packers’ historic run, which Nelson helped punctuate with a contested touchdown catch in the Super Bowl, followed by the jubilant, leaping hip-shoulder bump with Rodgers captured for all eternity on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
The body-contorting, sideline tip-toe catches, the barrage of long TDs in his franchise-record season of 2014, the go route down the middle of Soldier Field in the final minute of the December 2016 contest that kept “run the table” for real … and then strapping on enough gear to play with broken ribs five weeks later with the NFC title on the line.
And that’s just the on-field stuff. The charity softball game, the broad smile and the Kansas farm stories never got old.
It only stopped in 2015, for a full season unfortunately, due to a strange twist of turf at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh in August.
But now it stops, probably for good as far as the green-and-gold is concerned, and that’s tough. Tough for a lot of folks, including the decision-maker, GM Brian Gutekunst, who admitted as much upon releasing Nelson on Tuesday in a salary-cap move.
It has to be indescribably tough for Nelson, so there’s no point in trying. Tough for Rodgers, with whom he has unparalleled chemistry.
Tough for this 12-year packers.com writer as well, who less than a year ago was fortunate enough to sit down with Nelson and Rodgers for the 2017 Packers Yearbook cover story, to explore how that chemistry developed and evolved.
They talked about all their favorite routes, and a memory of one play or one game would spark countless others. A half-hour interview might never have needed so few questions. Mention a moment, and the banter began.
The previous year, the two had set the franchise mark for touchdowns between a quarterback-receiver duo. They were a pair of kings in Packers history, and Rodgers even cracked a line about going for 100 together.
They got to 65 (70, including postseason) before Rodgers broke his collarbone last October, but enough with the stats. The moment of their final season together came in Week 1, a patented Rodgers-to-Nelson TD on a free play against the Seahawks at Lambeau Field, the lab that housed so much of that chemistry.
It was an end of an era Tuesday, a sad day in Green Bay. Speaking of Nelson, Gutekunst said, “He’s everything you want a pro to be.”
He’s everything a football team could want, a quarterback could want, a fan could want, and the cold, hard realities of business in the NFL won’t change that.
It won’t change the memories of the moments, either.