Throwback

Unlike a lot of today's pro athletes, the next contract isn't an all-consuming thing for Jordy Nelson. That's why he called his current contract — which he has outperformed many times over — "more than enough" and why his next payday almost certainly will come with the Packers.

When players say it isn't about the money, more than likely, it's about the money.

The NFL is a million miles and several billion dollars removed from the "good old days," when players truly played for the love of the game. Between winning championships, Bart Starr spent his offseasons selling tires. Aaron Rodgers, it's safe to assume, isn't selling any whitewalls over at Pomps between OTA practices.

Somehow, however, you tend to believe Jordy Nelson when he says he isn't sweating the "if," "when," and "how much" questions as he enters his final season under contract. And you tend to believe him when he says he hasn't second-guessed his signing of a three-year contract extension back in September 2011 that has left him making about one-half of what Greg Jennings is taking home per season and about two-thirds of Golden Tate's and Brian Hartline's annual haul.

"What I got in that last deal I'll never spend it all, anyway, so I'm not worried about it," Nelson said.

Nelson laughed when asked if he was a bargain, though he clearly has been a steal from Green Bay's perspective. He pocketed a base salary of $2.7 million last season, which, obviously, is a lot of money but is, relatively speaking, chump change.

Someone with lesser integrity — or a more assertive agent or a more opinionated posse — might have persuaded Nelson to knock on Ted Thompson's door asking for more money. Not Nelson, whose play last season earned him a $500,000 raise to what is still an almost-laughable salary of $3.05 million.

"After looking back at it, I guess you can (say he left money on the table with that extension), but when I signed it, I don't think I did. I think everyone when I signed thought it was a good deal."

Nelson's correct. A second-round pick in 2008, Nelson caught 33 passes as a rookie, just 22 in 2009 and 45 in 2010. That gave him a three-year total of 100 receptions and six touchdowns.

"On the organization's side, it allows them to sign someone (who) maybe they don't quite have a full grasp of what they're going to be like, so we'll give him three years and maybe we can figure out more about him," Nelson said.

Thompson, as he has done in the past, gambled on an ascending player. At the time of that extension, Nelson had 10 receptions for 201 yards and two touchdowns in three games.

Then came the final 13 games of a prodigious breakout season in which he finished 13th in franchise history in receiving yardage and third in receiving touchdowns, plus second in the league with an 18.6-yard average.

"No one would have known I'd have 1,200 yards and 15 touchdowns," Nelson said. "Obviously, hindsight is 20/20 but, again, I'm not worried about that at all. I've been comfortable with my decision. I've talked to other guys who've given me a hard time about it. You've just got to live with your decision, one way or the other. You sign it, you've got to be happy. If you outplay it, you've got to deal with it. If you don't sign it and you get hurt, you've got to deal with that. You've just got to make sure you and your family are happy. Whatever decision, you've got to be able to handle that. My wife and I are fine with what we did and are excited with what we did. It's more than enough."

Nelson enters this season at age 29. Greg Jennings turned 29 early in his final season in Green Bay and James Jones also was 29 as he entered his final year with the team.

Nelson, however, is in a different spot than Jennings and Jones. Nelson, coming off career-high outputs of 85 receptions for 1,314 yards despite Rodgers' half-season absence and a revolving door of quarterbacks, is in the prime of his career. Jennings was on the decline and Jones certainly wasn't getting any faster.

Nelson said he's recently spoken to a doctor who said the "prime age" for a male athlete is 28 to 32. Whether that's a doctor who routinely deals with professional athletes who get tackled for a living is unknown. Nonetheless, Nelson hasn't shown anything to make you think his best days are behind him.

"I feel great, feel healthy and think I've got a few more in me."

Those "few more" years almost certainly will be with the Packers. "They know we don't want to leave," he said. And, knowing Nelson, whether the money comes in Week 1 or Week 8, the "if," "when," and "how much" questions won't change the way this throwback to a bygone era attacks each game.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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