GREEN BAY — The Packers will be without Jordy Nelson when the team takes the field for Sunday’s NFC Divisional playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys.
Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy confirmed during his Friday morning news conference that the Packers have ruled out their leading receiver with a rib injury he sustained in Sunday’s 38-13 win over the New York Giants.
It’ll be the first time this season the Packers will be without their top receiver, who led the team in receptions (97), receiving yards (1,257) and touchdown catches (14) during the regular season.
“It gives us one less receiver but obviously an extremely productive player,” McCarthy said. “You just go back to the way the game plan was set; the importance and emphasis on Jordy Nelson. With that, that’s gone and you just tilt opportunities the other way.
“That’s the way you always have to approach these type of situations anytime you have a player of his magnitude who’s not available. That’s all part of developing a game plan. You have to do that during the early stages of the week. We anticipated potentially not having him this week, so we’ll be prepared for that.”
Nelson is expected to travel with the team to Dallas and will be re-evaluated by team doctors on Monday, according to McCarthy.
Without Nelson, the Packers will be counting more on veterans Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, Jared Cook and Richard Rodgers into addition to undrafted rookie Geronimo Allison, who had eight catches for 157 yards and a TD during two relief appearances for Cobb (ankle) during the final two weeks of the regular season.
Both Cobb and Adams stepped up after Nelson left Sunday’s game against the Giants. Adams, who caught a team-high eight passes for 125 yards and a TD against New York, helped propel the Packers past Dallas in their 2014 playoff game when he grabbed seven passes for 117 yards and a TD.
“I think he’s come a long way,” McCarthy said. “You all recall his breakout game against the Cowboys in the playoffs two years ago. I think he’s having a great year. He’ll obviously have a lot of opportunities and I’m sure they’re going to give him attention that he may not have seen if Jordy played.”
McCarthy also confirmed cornerback Quinten Rollins remains in the concussion protocol despite being a limited participant in practice on Wednesday and Thursday.
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GREEN BAY — The Packers’ three coordinators met with the media following practice on Thursday. Here’s a rundown of their key comments:
Special teams coordinator Ron Zook
(on Jeff Janis’ quad injury)
“It happened early in the game, and he played the whole game. I was proud of him for that fact. They said it was a legitimate thigh bruise, but he practiced today and did well.”
(on Dallas returner Lucky Whitehead)
“He’s not a real big guy, but if you watch, people miss him. He’s unbelievably quick, strong with the ball. I’ve been showing clips all week of people missing him.”
(on Mason Crosby indoors)
“Last time he was down there he had a 58-yarder. He’s an experienced pro.”
(on punt returns)
“Micah’s got his legs back under him and he’s returning like he did a couple years ago.”
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers
(on the first meeting with the Cowboys)
“We had some errors and the Cowboys had some big plays that really had a big impact on the game. They were fundamental errors. Guys just have to take care of their job and not try to do too much. I think we’ve gained a lot of experience since then. A lot of the young guys that were playing then, they’re not young guys anymore.”
(on Dak Prescott in the first meeting)
“He didn’t have a lot of games under his belt, but he played like a veteran. He does a good job of his reads, going where he should with the ball and really doesn’t make a lot of critical errors. It’s not like a lot of young quarterbacks where you can force him into making errors.”
(on Dallas’ play-action game)
“That’s what their offense is built on. If you don’t take care of business, all of a sudden they come up with big plays, because they have big-play people. Their play-action pass game has been good. They do a nice job of mixing things up and trying to keep you off-balance. They use a lot of different personnel groups on first and second down.”
(on Peppers and holding him back earlier in the season)
“I think he’s played his best here over the last 3-4 weeks. You’re always looking for those guys who can make the play that can impact the game. Julius isn’t any different than most great players. They’d like to play every down if they could, but he’s also a smart guy. He’s taken full advantage of it. He knows we want him to be at his best right now.”
“I think he’s physically better, and that’s helping him get on the practice field and take his practice reps. We went through a period of time where he really didn’t have any (reps in practice). That’s hard to do at that position. He’s working his way back to being more healthy. He’s an excellent athlete and can make plays on the ball. What I’m hoping is that he’s ready to go play his best game on Sunday.”
Offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett
(on the offense adjusting without Nelson)
“Each and every guy, they’re prepared to step in and play. That’s really how you have to go about looking at it. We feel we have playmakers at a number of different positions, and we’ll create opportunities. It’s all about matchups.”
“I really don’t think we have any finished products just yet. It’s about improving on a day-to-day basis, and that’s his mindset.”
“Here’s what you love about him. Tremendous work ethic, brings a ton of energy, love the way he practices. As far as slowing down, we always talk as a runner about pace, tempo, as far as your course and understanding your blocking scheme. Getting the ball north and south, that’s one of his strengths.”
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GREEN BAY — Last week, the Packers were facing the Giants’ top-rated red-zone defense in the league, and Green Bay converted 3-of-4 red-zone possessions into touchdowns.
That continued a strong recent trend for the Packers, who are now 20-for-28 in the red zone during their current seven-game winning streak, an impressive pace they’d love to keep going in the NFC Divisional playoff against the Cowboys.
“You look at the way we’ve been playing of late in the red zone, we need to play that way Sunday in Dallas,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said prior to Thursday’s practice. “And we need to hold them to field goals on defense.”
Forcing the Giants to kick two field goals early kept the margin manageable last week while the Packers’ offense worked its way out of a slow start.
An added question against the Cowboys, though, is how many cracks the Packers will get, because Dallas ranks second in the league in time of possession, just ahead of the Packers in fourth. Ball control will be a priority for both teams because it’s been such a big part of their success, even though they do it differently — Dallas with the league’s leading rusher in Ezekiel Elliott, and Green Bay with the league’s hottest QB in Aaron Rodgers.
“They’re not on the field as long as other defenses,” McCarthy said. “They do a really good job stopping the run, they do a really good job making you one-dimensional, and when you do that on your home turf, you have a great chance of playing downhill.”
On the injury front, the Packers are hoping that WR Jeff Janis, a key member of the special-teams units, can return at least on a limited basis on Thursday from a quad injury. He sat out Wednesday’s practice. The status of WR Jordy Nelson has not changed.
“He’s making progress,” McCarthy said. “He has a three-day plan and we’ll evaluate him Friday.”
For the Cowboys, the biggest difference from the first game against the Packers this season will be the presence of WR Dez Bryant, who was injured back in October.
“He’s their No. 1 receiver when you look at what he’s done historically,” McCarthy said. “He can do it all. He can get behind you, he’s a red-zone threat, he can high-point the ball. He’s an excellent threat in their offense.”
Packers.com will have more following practice and locker room interviews.
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GREEN BAY — Receiver Jordy Nelson will work with the rehab group during Wednesday’s practice, according to Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy.
Nelson (rib) exited Sunday’s 38-13 win over the New York Giants and didn’t return. McCarthy said on Monday that the earliest Nelson could practice would be Saturday.
McCarthy said he hadn’t spoken to Nelson much, but added the veteran receiver has been in good spirits around the building.
“Jordy is the same guy every day,” McCarthy said. “He’s here. He’s been here all day. He’s making progress.”
Although Nelson’s status for Sunday’s NFC Divisional playoff game in Dallas remains uncertain, McCarthy said he feels good about the the Packers’ other receiving options. Veteran Randall Cobb returned against New York after a two-game absence, catching five passes for 116 yards and three TDs.
When asked about how this year’s offense differs from the one that had to play without Nelson in 2015, McCarthy said the team definitely is better equipped to handle the Pro Bowl receiver’s absence due to depth and development of young playmakers.
Second-year cornerback Quinten Rollins also will be a participant in the Packers’ rehab program Wednesday. He sat out of Sunday’s game with the Giants after being carted off the field with a neck injury during the Packers’ Week 17 game in Detroit. He later was diagnosed with a concussion.
McCarthy added that running back James Starks remains in the concussion protocol after being involved in a car accident last month. Starks has missed the last four games.
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