For the second season in a row, the Packers will not have Jordy Nelson in their NFC Divisional Round playoff game.
Of course, in 2015, Green Bay was without its top wide receiver the whole year, as he’d torn his ACL in the preseason; this time, the team didn’t know Nelson’s status until two days before Sunday’s game against the Cowboys in Dallas.
But head coach Mike McCarthy made official Friday morning what many Packers fans feared.
"Jordy Nelson, actually, we’re going to declare him out for the game," McCarthy said. "Meeting with the medical staff, Dr. (Patrick) McKenzie and Dr. (John) Gray will not medically clear him to practice tomorrow, so he will be out for the game Sunday."
It’s a huge, though not unexpected, blow for a Packers offense that’s been one of the NFL’s best the last two months. Over the final six games of the regular season, Green Bay averaged 30.8 points per game, which would have ranked second in the league in scoring for an entire year. A major part of that success was Nelson, a friend and favorite target of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who seemed to have gotten back to being the "old Jordy" in terms of his speed and playmaking.
Nelson was the Packers’ leader in catches (97), receiving yards (1,257) and touchdowns (14) this year. During Green Bay’s seven-game winning streak, which includes its 38-13 win over the Giants in the Wild Card Round playoff game, Rodgers and Nelson connected on 80.4 percent of their attempts (45 of 56) and scored five touchdowns.
But it looked as serious as it ultimately turned out to be in the second quarter of last week’s game against New York, when Nelson absorbed a hard hit to the ribs from Giants safety Leon Hall. Immediately doubled over in pain, Nelson struggled to get up and was taken to the locker room on a cart, visibly saddened.
Nelson went through limited rehab drills later in the week, but his significant rib injury clearly didn’t improve enough to pass medical muster. McCarthy said Nelson will still accompany the team to Dallas – the Packers plan to travel tomorrow after a short practice – but the coach wouldn’t speculate on whether Nelson could conceivably play in the NFC Championship Game, if Green Bay got past the Cowboys on Sunday.
"We'll re-evaluate Monday," McCarthy said. "(Nelson’s) actually in the training room now, going through a workout. He’ll continue to progress, he says he feels better every day, so we’ll have to answer that question Monday."
Against the Giants, the Packers scored all 38 of their points after Nelson was knocked out of the game. Veteran Randall Cobb had his best performance of the season, with five receptions for 116 yards and three touchdowns, while the dynamic Davante Adams caught eight passes for 125 yards and a score. Undrafted rookie Geronimo Allison emerged as a playmaker late in the season, and it’s possible special teams stalwart Jeff Janis could have an increased role Sunday. Many Packers players and coaches this week also pointed to tight end Jared Cook as someone who would be relied on more with Nelson out.
Green Bay's offense played very well without Nelson against New York, but can it happen again in Dallas? How do you think Nelson's absence will impact the Packers on Sunday? Let us know in the comments!
Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.
After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like CBSSports.com, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.
Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.