The Green Bay Packers are certifiably hot after winning their seventh game in a row Sunday, but they’ll face the challenge of playing the Dallas Cowboys next in the playoffs — and they may be without one of Aaron Rodgers’s favorite targets.
Wide receiver Jordy Nelson was carted off after taking a hard hit in the ribs from New York Giants safety Leon Hall and he spent Sunday night in the hospital, according to ESPN.
Packers Coach Mike McCarthy said Monday that Nelson won’t try to practice until Saturday and his availability for Sunday’s NFC divisional game in Dallas is uncertain. On Sunday, Nelson remained on the ground for several minutes and, although he eventually walked to a cart, he was driven to the locker room and did not return to the game or speak to reporters.
“If he can’t practice Saturday, then he won’t play,” McCarthy said of Sunday’s playoff game at Dallas (via ESPN.)
Although Rodgers found receivers Randall Cobb and Davante Adams as he passed for 362 yards and four touchdowns, his relationship with Nelson is special.
“That’d be a huge loss for us, obviously,” Rodgers said afterward.
Nelson, who missed the 2015 season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in a preseason game, caught 97 passes for 1,257 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2016. On Sunday, he had one reception for 13 yards before his second-quarter injury. The emotion and pain registered on Nelson’s face as he was carted off.
“I mean, obviously I’m concerned for Jordy,” Packers Coach Mike McCarthy said immediately after the game. “I don’t have the information yet. I haven’t even been in the training room so I can’t give you an update there.”
In his absence, Cobb and Adams each had over 100 yards receiving with Cobb on the business end of a Hail Mary pass at the end of the first half.
“I think everybody just kind of stuck to our job, tried to put ourselves in position to make the plays when they were there, when we had those opportunities,” said Cobb, who caught three touchdown passes. “We hate seeing one of our guys go down, but we’ve got to continue to play.”
If Nelson can’t play, Geronimo Allison, who caught one pass for eight yards, will have to step up.
“Geronimo’s been playing a lot for us and playing effectively. Randall being back healthy — I said it this week in my news conference — we’re better with [No.] 18 on the field, and he showed it tonight,” Rodgers said. “He made a ton of plays for us. He was excellent and having him out there is going to help, but Geronimo’s going to have to step up and play extended time if Jordy’s going to be out.”
Nelson’s absence may have slid down the list of important moments in the wild-card game, but he and Nelson have chemistry, a bond that is personal as well as athletic. It started when Rodgers hit Nelson up for the first of many rides to the airport in 2012 and has blossomed into a successful familiarity that was apparent when Rodgers hit Nelson on a long pass in his first week of practice last summer.
“I could throw that ball with my eyes closed,” Rodgers said, “because I know exactly where he’s going to be.”