Nelson earning praise, laughs

Intelligent and impressive rookie shows promise at OTAs as a receiver and possibly a kickoff returner.

If nothing else at this early stage of his professional career, rookie receiver Jordy Nelson is fitting in.

"He's always laughing," star receiver Donald Driver said on Wednesday. "The first time he met me, he was so nervous he wouldn't speak. It was surprising he kind of had that attitude, but now he's open and he's laughing, and we're making jokes all the time about each other. So, he's getting the hang of it."

Nelson, the Packers' first pick this year (second round; No. 36 overall), looks every bit as talented as the player many insiders predict will be a steal of the draft. At 6-foot-3 and 217 pounds, he's an inviting target. Plus, he's athletic enough that he's the early leader to join Tramon Williams as the Packers' No. 1 kickoff returners.

"What I like about Jordy is he is a young player that continues to improve," coach Mike McCarthy said. "You go to the first week, and he is in a bump-and-run situation against Tramon Williams and Tramon gets an excellent jam on him, and like a lot of players, they are taken aback by it. Now, you see Jordy is advancing and getting off releases. He sees the bump-and-run every day.

"He seems to be very bright and he seems to be picking things up at a fast pace, and that's important in our scheme, because our receivers play all three positions, four positions in some cases. So, I am very, very pleased with that. He has the size and speed and looks like a natural route runner."

Nelson caught a ridiculous 122 passes last season at Kansas State. While he didn't return kickoffs in college, he fielded five punts as a senior — and returned two of them for touchdowns.

"I definitely would like to do it," Nelson said. "It's just another way to help out the team, and I would be able to get out on the field and play. Kickoff return is not maybe as wide open as a punt return might be, but for the most part, it's just reading the blocks and going where you are supposed to go."

Contributing as a kickoff returner would be nice, but the Packers are expecting him to produce as a receiver. His addition is a big reason why the Packers deemed Koren Robinson — who caught 21 passes last season — expendable, and the 33-year-old Driver can't stay productive forever. So far, Nelson is handling the learning curve.

"His intelligence has been impressive," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "Today, I gave him an audible to see if he picked it up and he did, so that was impressive."

Doing it in shorts in May and June and doing it on a September Sunday are two different things, of course, so Nelson has plenty to prove to everybody.

"I'm not going to guarantee that he's one of the guys," Driver said. "He has to still prove that he can still play. That's what all of us (have to do). I still have to believe that I can still play before I get ran out of here.

Steve Lawrence is a frequent contributor to E-mail him at

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