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Packers ponder life without Jordy

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — Now that receiver Jordy Nelson’s eighth NFL season is over before it even started, what can the Green Bay Packers realistically expect in the season ahead?

Plenty of good, teammates and head coach Mike McCarthy insisted Tuesday as the Packers returned to the field with one of their most indispensable players conspicuously missing practice.

The distressing news came down Monday that Nelson would miss the entire season because of a torn ACL in his right knee sustained a day earlier in the Packers’ 24-19 preseason loss at the Pittsburgh Steelers.

However, no one, including Nelson, was kissing the team’s lofty aspirations of a Super Bowl title goodbye.

“It’s a tough blow to our football team, but as we spoke in the team meeting (Tuesday), nothing’s changed,” McCarthy said. “Our goal hasn’t changed. When things like this happen, a good system with a good football team, adjustments are made. So, we will adjust and keep moving.”

As Nelson awaits surgery at an undetermined date after the swelling in the knee dissipates and sets his personal sights on being good to go again by next summer, he isn’t fretting how the offense will pick up the slack.

“I think in past years we’ve been a lot of pass-game heavy based on what we had,” said Nelson, who spoke in the team’s locker room after practice Tuesday. “So, I think (running backs) Eddie (Lacy) and James (Starks) will be a huge factor there.

“But, it’s what these young guys will do,” Nelson, the elder statesman of the group at age 30, said about his fellow wideouts. “It’s going to be a great opportunity for them. It’s going to be a lot of work for them, but they’ll put it in. (Quarterback) Aaron (Rodgers) will put the work in with them, and they’ll have a great opportunity. It will be fun to go out there and watch them make the most of that opportunity and do as well as they can.”

Football life without Nelson for the Packers started in earnest Tuesday.

Fifth-year pro Randall Cobb, who turned 25 on Saturday, now is the senior member of the receiving corps. Last season’s first-time Pro-Bowl honoree has assumed the No. 1 distinction in the pecking order at the position, which has suddenly elevated second-year player Davante Adams and rookie Ty Montgomery into the Nos. 2 and 3 roles, respectively.

“You can’t replace Jordy Nelson,” Cobb acknowledged. “He’s an unbelievable player, the things he’s been able to accomplish over his career and, obviously, last season the numbers he put up. It’s going to be really a challenge for us as a group to try to make up where ends meet.”

Beyond Cobb’s career highs of 91 catches for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, the combined NFL production of 40 catches for 462 yards and three touchdowns by Adams, Montgomery and returning second-year pro Jeff Janis pales greatly in comparison to Nelson’s 98 receptions for 1,519 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.

“They just have to step up,” Cobb said. “At the end of the day, there’s an opportunity for these young guys to get on the field more, to be able to work with Aaron more, to grow his trust, and that’s the most important thing right now.”

Along with the huge numbers that can’t be replaced as Rodgers’ trusted playmaker, particularly on deep shots, Nelson’s permanent absence in the season ahead will impact how the Packers planned to utilize what was shaping up to be another deep cast of receivers.

The 5-foot-10 Cobb has long excelled in the slot, so McCarthy and first-year play-caller Tom Clements won’t be too eager to mess with a good thing.

However, instead of easing Montgomery in as a pro with a situational role predominantly on the inside as well, the 6-foot third-round draft pick out of Stanford figures to be mostly flanked outside with Adams. At just 6-foot-1, Adams becomes the tallest of Green Bay’s primary receivers with the 6-foot-3 Nelson out of the picture.

The Packers’ reliance on multi-receiver looks also could mean a larger role for 6-foot-4 tight end Richard Rodgers to be split out.

“You’ve got to have complete players, guys that know the full concept and can get out there and play wherever,” said Adams, who came on at the end of his rookie season, highlighted by a seven-catch, 117-yard, one-touchdown performance in the divisional playoff win over the Dallas Cowboys.

“It’s going to get mixed up sometimes,” Adams added. “I’ll play inside, Randall will play outside, you never know. It all depends on what our coaching staff wants and what’s best for the team.”

Notes: Linebacker Clay Matthews went through practice Tuesday, an encouraging sign after the defensive standout missed the first two preseason games as he dealt with knee and elbow soreness. Barring a setback this week, Matthews should be in line to make his belated debut in a preseason game this summer when the Packers host the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday. … Left tackle David Bakhtiari remained out Tuesday (knee). … Left guard Josh Sitton was out of practice Tuesday (ankle). … Right guard T.J. Lang (concussion) is still going through the league-mandated protocol. … Defensive end Mike Daniels (ankle) was cleared to practice Tuesday. … Quarterback Scott Tolzien (concussion vs. Pittsburgh) is going through the league-mandated protocol. … Defensive end Datone Jones (knee) didn’t practice Tuesday and won’t be available at the start of the season in two weeks because of a one-game suspension imposed by the NFL for a substance abuse violation.


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