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By CHRIS HAVEL
The final score was inconsequential, but its aftermath was the greater concern.
If Jordy Nelson has indeed suffered a season-ending knee injury (no official word had been given as of Monday) the Packers have been dealt a minor setback.
Nelson was injured on the Packers’ first offensive series on what appeared to be a harmless play. Nelson caught a 10-yard hitch, landed awkwardly and crumpled to the Heinz Field turf. There was no contact on the play.
Then, with a bit of help from trainers, he got up and gingerly jogged off to the sideline. Shortly thereafter, he walked to the visitor’s locker room and didn’t return.
Packers’ fans hoped for the best but feared the worst. If he sprained his ankle it’s no big deal. If he tore his ACL (which sources have confirmed) it would mean he’s done for 2015. The Packers’ 24-19 loss to the Steelers in the team’s second preseason game was meaningless compared with the possible aftermath of Nelson’s injury.
While we await official word, R-E-L-A-X Packers fans. Here are a couple of observations:
1) Nelson’s injury had nothing to do with this being a preseason game.
His non-contact injury could have happened during any training camp practice at Nitschke Field. This isn’t about shortening the preseason, or ending it altogether. It’s about a great player incurring a freak injury, and what his team does to carry on without him.
2) Shortening the preseason to two games, for example, wouldn’t have made a difference.
This was the Packers’ second game.
3) While I understand Aaron Rodgers’ frustration, I disagreed with his decision to vent on the merits of preseason games.
Earlier in the week, Rodgers talked of the need to get an offensive rhythm in the preseason. When Nelson went down, his tone shifted to the preseason being meaningless.
Which is it? Why is it OK to have four preseason games– so long as no one in a Packers uniform is injured – but not once a player such as Nelson goes down.
4) The notion that the Packers’ Super Bowl 50 odds have taken a serious hit is overstated.
At last check (Monday morning) the Packers were slight favorites over Seattle. So long as Rodgers is at quarterback and Packers’ head coach Mike McCarthy is running the show Green Bay is a contender, period. And don’t forget, they have LOTS of weapons, more than they can reasonably get on the field at one time.
5) For whatever reason the Packers’ other weapons don’t get much respect.
In fact, Nelson was vastly underrated until he was injured. Now, it’s the end of the Packers’ season in some people’s minds? Again, you can’t have it both ways.
Mike Foss, a writer with USA Today, wrote an article Monday that stands as an example of how underrated the Packers’ other weapons are among the national media. Foss misspelled Davante Adams’ name (DeVante) and Andrew Quarless’ name (Quarles). Really, USA Today, is that the best you’ve got?
6) The news that Fox Sports football analyst Randy Moss was “flirting” with an NFL comeback came down soon after Nelson went down.
Moss talked of keeping himself in shape and still having the desire – and the skills – to play.
It didn’t take an NFL genius to see the possible connection. Seriously, though, I doubt Moss would merit a look. He hasn’t played since 2013, and then on a limited basis.
7) The Patriots signed free agent receiver Reggie Wayne within an hour of Nelson’s injury.
Did Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick have a hunch the Packers might come calling on Wayne? It would be interesting to know.
8) Wes Welker and Santonio Holmes are free agents.
After that it’s pretty sparse until teams cut their rosters.I believe the Packers’ response to Nelson’s injury will be to focus on expanding roles for players currently on the roster. McCarthy’s next news conference is Tuesday at 10:40 a.m.
I suspect he’ll talk about Eddie Lacy and the running game, as well as tight end Richard Rodgers stepping up and contributing in a larger role. Furthermore, McCarthy’s likely to talk about the importance of re-signing Randall Cobb and the development of second-year receiver Davante Adams and rookie Ty Montgomery.
Losing Nelson would be a shame, but that hardly means that the Packers’ goal for 2015 changes.
Green Bay remains one of the favorites to win Super Bowl 50. Now, it’s up to McCarthy and Nelson’s teammates to devise a way to get there, without Jordy if necessary. Injuries have not prevented them from winning championship….witness 1996 and 2010.
Maybe it got more difficult, but whoever said it was going to be easy?
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games.