Knee 'hiccup' raises level of concern over Jordy Nelson's return

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Jordy Nelson uncertainty meter has moved a little closer to the dangerous end.

There was already a sense of the unknown – there always is when a skill-position player is coming off an ACL reconstruction – about the Green Bay Packers' Pro Bowl receiver. But when he revealed on Tuesday that he experienced what he called “a hiccup” with his other knee, it threw into question not only when Nelson would return but also whether he will be able to perform at his pre-ACL tear level.

Maybe it’s good news that the "hiccup" was not in the right ACL that landed Nelson on the physically unable to perform list to start camp. A setback with his right knee might have a longer-lasting impact. At bare minimum, the latest injury to his left knee delays whatever re-acclimation period he needs with quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Nelson, who posted a career-high 98 catches in 2014, hasn’t caught a live pass from Rodgers since the preseason play Nelson was injured on last Aug. 23 at Pittsburgh.

Coach Mike McCarthy expressed confidence on the eve of training camp that the chemistry between Nelson and Rodgers would return quickly.

“I think that’s hard to tell; this is a new situation,” Nelson said Tuesday. “A few years ago, I think I practiced the first week of camp and then came back the last week and was fine. But I also played the whole season before.

“Mentally, I think I’ll be sharp. I’ll be out there with the script. I’m going through the plays every time they run a play. I’m obviously in every meeting, understanding what Aaron’s talking about and wanting. It’s my ninth year with him so it’ll just be getting used to seeing the ball again, and we’ll be able to do that towards the end of camp.”

McCarthy said he anticipated Nelson would practice at some point during training camp but said nothing about him playing in the preseason. If Nelson doesn’t come back until the final week, it’s possible he wouldn’t play with Rodgers, who hasn’t played in a preseason finale since 2012.

Still, Rodgers said it would just take “probably a couple days” to get his timing back with Nelson.

“We’re going to need a little bit of time -- not necessarily game reps but just some reps in practice,” Rodgers said. “He’s going to need to feel press coverage again and getting off of that and running and making plays and catches. I’m confident that he’ll get to a point where he’ll be ready to play when we need him.”

Without Nelson last season, Rodgers posted his lowest completion percentage (60.7) since he became a starter in 2008. The previous two seasons, Rodgers combined to complete 65.9 percent of his passes and had a yards-per-attempt average of 8.5, nearly 2 yards higher than last season's mark of 6.7.

"Obviously, you want to be out there," Nelson said. "The more practices you have, the better, but it's nothing that we're panicking about right now. As long as we're on the same page mentally, it will carry over to the game."