GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Wide receivers for the Green Bay Packers are trained to handle any position so that anyone can easily slide into a new slot because of an injury, or if coach Mike McCarthy likes a matchup.
Nelson will sit out practice at midweek to focus on rehab for the injury, though McCarthy said his top receiver may be cleared to play in Dallas if he takes part in the Packers’ final practice on Saturday.
”And then Saturday if he can practice, then he may have a chance. But we’re not going to do anything until Saturday,” McCarthy said on Monday.
Nelson left in the second quarter of the 38-13 win over the New York Giants in a wild-card game on Sunday. He took a shot to the left side of his body from safety Leon Hall’s helmet while jumping for a pass that went incomplete.
McCarthy said Nelson spent Sunday night in the hospital. Nelson was back at Lambeau Field on Monday.
”Yeah, I’ve seen him. I think he’s doing all right. We’ll see what happens this week,” receiver Jeff Janis said.
The Packers practice on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday for games on Sunday.
On most teams, losing a player like Nelson, who led the NFL with 14 touchdown catches this season, would be a blow. A seasoned veteran who has a knack for getting open, Nelson led the Packers with 97 catches for 1,257 yards in a strong comeback season after missing 2015 with a devastating knee injury.
But the Packers have a great equalizer in quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and the passing game has become more diverse as the season has worn on.
Nelson was knocked out of the Giants game with 11:08 left in the second quarter. After spending a few minutes down on the sideline, Nelson walked to a cart and rode to the locker room. He looked emotional sitting in the front seat, hunched over with his hands on his face.
It took a few more minutes, but the Packers adjusted. Rodgers got into rhythm and the offense scored two touchdowns in the final 2:20 of the second quarter, punctuated by Rodgers’ improbable 42-yard touchdown to Randall Cobb on a Hail Mary pass .
”Just some more runaways where we get (the defense) on the move and then moving (receivers) to different spots,” Rodgers, an expert at throwing outside the pocket, said after the game.
Green Bay finished off the Giants with 24 straight points over the final 18 minutes. Cobb, in his first game back after missing the final two of the regular season with ankle injury, finished with five catches for 116 yards and three scores.
Davante Adams had eight catches for 125 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Jared Cook added five catches for 48 yards. The Packers moved them all around, from wide left to wide right to the slot.
”I think anybody in our room can be inserted anywhere at any receiver spot,” said Janis, a special teams mainstay who could see more time at receiver if Nelson is out. ”That’s something that we pride ourselves on.”
The late-season emergence of undrafted rookie free agent Geronimo Allison, along with the receiving capabilities of wideout-turned-running back Ty Montgomery, have also added to a diversity in the passing game that will become more important if Nelson is sidelined.
”I think everybody just kind of stuck to our jobs (and) tried to put ourselves in a position to make the plays when they were there, when we had those opportunities,” Cobb said. ”We hate seeing one of our guys go down, but we’ve got to continue to play.”
NOTE: The Packers released DL Mike Pennel on Monday. Pennel was suspended twice in the regular season – once at the start of the year and once at the end, each time for four games – for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. Pennel played in eight games this season, making seven tackles. He played in 37 games overall in three seasons in Green Bay, making five starts in 2015.
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