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Packers expect Jordy Nelson back as good as ever, if not even better

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If you didn’t know any better, you’d think Jordy Nelson could play this weekend if the Green Bay Packers had reached the NFC Championship Game.

That’s how well the Pro Bowl receiver’s recovery from his preseason torn ACL has progressed. For weeks, Nelson has been running full speed and working out in the Don Hutson Center while the rest of his teammates practiced.

“He will be ready a lot sooner than a lot of people think he will be ready,” fellow Packers receiver James Jones said. “The guy has been in here, putting in a lot of work. He sleeps with his ice machine on, he takes all that stuff home, he works hard. He’ll be back. I’m proud of him.”

The reality is that Nelson almost certainly could not have played less than five months after he blew out his knee when he landed awkwardly in the Aug. 23 preseason game at Pittsburgh. But even Nelson had a little fun thinking about that possibility. In an interview on the Dan Patrick Show this week, Nelson pondered the idea of being able to play in the Super Bowl had the Packers made it and not shut him down for the season.

“I think it would’ve tweaked the way we went through our rehab process,” Nelson said on the show. “Once you go on [injured reserve], obviously I’m not playing again and our target date is training camp, so we attacked the rehab at a different rate. But if they wouldn’t have put me on IR and we would’ve tried to come back for the playoffs or Super Bowl, then we would’ve progressed at a different rate. So yeah, if that was the plan, I would’ve given it a shot. I feel great and everything’s gone smoothly and hopefully that continues.”

Nelson spent the entire season in Green Bay and remained as involved as he could with his teammates when he wasn’t working with the trainers to rehab and strengthen his knee.

He was coming off his best season (98 catches for 1,519 yards and 13 touchdowns) when he was injured. However, he will turn 31 on May 31 and it’s worth wondering if the injury will slow him down.

“I think Jordy will come back better than ever,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said this week. “He’s one of the players I’ve had a chance to sit down and talk to [right after the season], and just like you knew he would he’s so far ahead with the rehab, he looks great. There’s no reason to think he won’t be good as new.”

The Packers will need Nelson to come back the same given how badly their offense struggled this season, falling all the way 25th in the NFL in passing yards per game.

No one will know what impact Nelson's injury will have on him until he’s back in full pads next August, but it will be interesting to see how much he does in the offseason program. The Packers typically keep most players coming off ACL injuries on a limited rep count until training camp or even later.

“I went through all that last year,” said Packers receiver Jared Abbrederis, who tore his ACL in the 2014 training camp. “You follow the protocol. They do a good job here. I think with all the hard work that he puts in, it shouldn’t be a problem. I don’t know how he’s feeling, but I would assume that he’d be all right.”