On Aug. 23, 2015, Jordy Nelson tore his ACL at Pittsburgh.
On Monday – Aug. 22, 2016 – Nelson returned to practice.
“Hardly even a practice,” Nelson pointed out.
Nelson, the Green Bay Packers’ big-play receiver, made his training camp debut on the sun-splashed Ray Nitschke Practice Field. Nelson didn’t do much – he caught some passes from Aaron Rodgers and ran some half-speed routes while the full offense worked 11 on 11 on the other side of the field – but it was the next step in his comeback.
And a critical step, at that, in light of what happened to the offense last season.
“It felt pretty normal,” Nelson said. “I think usually when we come back for camp it’s a little awkward just because it’s your first day in pads even if you played the year before because we don’t do anything (in pads) in the offseason. But it wasn’t anything much, and like I said, I hardly did anything out there, anyway.”
The Packers will practice again on Tuesday, with a day off on Wednesday and the typically light day-before-the-game practice on Thursday before shipping off for San Francisco for Friday night’s preseason game.
“Today felt great, so I’m sure tomorrow we’ll do a little bit more,” Nelson said. “We’ll see what the practice schedule looks like. Obviously, we’ll eventually build into team periods. We should get plenty of that by the time Jacksonville comes around. We’ll see what we do this week, but I assume, just based off normal progression, that next week we’ll probably get into some competitive periods. And then Jacksonville, I don’t have any reason to think it won’t be a normal week of preparation.”
There’s no chance Nelson will play against the 49ers. Considering Aaron Rodgers was held out of the first two preseason games, there’s a chance – maybe just a remote chance – that they’ll play a series together in the preseason finale at Kansas City next Thursday. Rodgers hasn’t played in the final preseason game since 2012, but he also hadn’t skipped the first two preseason games until this year.
Regardless, Nelson downplayed the need to get tackled before the regular season begins.
“I don’t think it’s important,” he said. “I think if it’s something we do, it’s fine. If it’s something we don’t do, it’s fine. It’s nothing I’m worried about.”
Despite the missed time, Nelson is pleased with his conditioning. Still, there’s a lot of work to do before Sept. 11. Timing and chemistry with Rodgers must be developed and Nelson must find the confidence in his knee to run, jump and cut at game speed.
“I felt better today, honestly, than I thought I was going to wind-wise, conditioning-wise, running those routes being full padded and everything,” he said. “I thought that was a good sign. We’ve been working inside, so we’ve been getting the conditioning aspect in. but there’s nothing like playing a game. Playing a game in Jacksonville Week 1, it’s going to be hot down there. I’m sure everyone will be having to deal with it, and it’ll be part of it.
With almost three weeks until the opener, time is on Nelson’s side. Then again, there are only three practices left in training camp, plus the four practices leading to the Jacksonville game. Being ready for that game has been Nelson’s target all along.
“I don’t think,” Nelson said, “anything’s changed.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.