GREEN BAY, Wis. -- We. We. We. Time and again, as Jordy Nelson discussed his comeback on Monday, he opted for the collective instead of the individual. Apparently, it takes a village to raise a wide receiver from a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
“We’re right where we want to be,” the Green Bay Packers Pro Bowl wideout said after fully participating in the first official workout of the team’s offseason program.
For Nelson, who tore the ACL in his right knee in an Aug. 23 preseason game at Pittsburgh and missed the Packers’ entire 2015 season, it really did take a team effort to get him to this point.
“Absolutely,” Nelson replied when asked if he was using “we” by design. “I’d probably still be on crutches if it was up to me [to do it alone].”
Nelson, who was coming off his best NFL season (98 receptions, 1,519 yards, 13 touchdowns) at the time of the injury, said Monday that he is running, including running pass routes. He also hinted that while the medical staff may want to take a less zealous approach, he’d like to be on the field for some of the 11-on-11 work that will occur during the team’s organized team activity practices next month.
For that to even be part of the discussion is proof of the progress the soon-to-be 31-year-old Nelson has made.
While he may have done the heavy lifting, Nelson says he’s had plenty of help, from Packers team physician Dr. Patrick McKenzie, who performed the surgery; to head athletic trainer Bryan “Flea” Engel and assistant athletic trainer Nate Weir, who collaborated on Nelson’s rehabilitation regimen and put him through the workouts; to Nelson’s wife Emily and the couple’s two children, who provided support and occasional distraction during the laborious process.
Nelson said McKenzie gave him a positive report immediately following the surgery, which got his comeback off to a good start.
“I asked him if he ever comes out and tells someone that [the surgery] didn’t go the way he wanted,” Nelson joked.
Before having the surgery, Nelson -- mindful that other teammates have gone outside the organization for their ACL reconstructions -- consulted with ex-Packers teammate and friend Aaron Kampman, who tore his left ACL during his final season with the Packers in 2009 and tore his right ACL with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2010. Kampman elected to have McKenzie perform both of his surgeries.
After the left ACL tear, Kampman had surgery on Dec. 4, 2009 -- and that knee was ready for the start of the 2010 season. He never played in an NFL regular-season game again after his right ACL tear and officially retired in 2013.
“Honestly, after surgery, what I’ve learned through my process and even [listening to] some other guys I’ve seen go through it is, everyone’s recovery is different. You can’t lay two ACL surgeries side by side; they’re not going to be the same,” Nelson said. “Everyone progresses different, everyone’s surgery is different, every ACL tear is different. I haven’t reached out to anyone for what it’s going to be like when I come back to the game. I’m just focused on what we need to do to get done and be ready to go.”
The getting-it-done portion fell to Engel and Weir, who began putting Nelson through a gauntlet of different exercises and drills in an effort to not only keep him progressing but also to keep him from getting bored.
“Nate and ‘Flea’ have been great. They’ve pushed me,” said Nelson, adding that he stayed in Green Bay throughout the season and offseason to continue his work with Weir and Engel instead of having to find trainers to work with him in another locale. “That’s one reason I stayed here, to allow them to see the progression.
“Being able to change things up and move forward instead of being stuck in the same groove for a month at a time [has helped]. We’ve been creative with the exercises. They’ve changed it up. They’ve kept me entertained. … By the time I got tired of doing an exercise, we were far enough along that we were able to move to something else.”