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Packers' Rodgers prospering with Nelson healthy again

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Aaron Rodgers had his worst season as a starter in 2015 and both fans and media pounced on the idea that the Green Bay Packers quarterback’s career might be in decline.

But what last season really showed is even the best players can’t do it alone. The loss of wide receiver Jordy Nelson to a torn ACL during the preseason proved devastating as Rodgers’ completion percentage and passer rating dipped to career lows.

The Packers wrapped Nelson in double-thick layer of bubble wrap this offseason, keeping him on the physically unable to perform list for the better part of August. And although he claims he never felt slowed by the knee once he was medically cleared, coach Mike McCarthy said it’s only natural that it takes time for a player to get re-acclimated after a serious injury.

“I think just the way we held him on PUP and all that, we couldn’t have been more cautious with him,” McCarthy said. “You definitely see the benefits of that, but I felt like we put a lot of stress on him early in the year to perform at such a high level

“I agree it took him a little while to get going,” McCarthy said. “He’s no different than any player in this league that’s coming off of major knee surgery. That first year back from major joint surgery, it’s tough. It’s a grind because everything is a little different, he’s done a great job working through it though.”

The strategy has paid dividends as Nelson said he’s feeling healthier and stronger now than he was earlier in the season.

“It’s been a lot to take care of my body, have my routine each day, each week,” Nelson said in a conference call with Detroit media on Wednesday.

Nelson caught six passes for 32 yards in the opener in Jacksonville, then five balls for 73 yards against Minnesota in Week 2, scoring in both games. But he truly showed he was back to his old self against Detroit in the third week of the season, going off for 101 yards and two scores.

He enters the season finale with 91 receptions for 1,191 yards and 14 touchdowns and could match or beat his career-highs in catches and scores with another strong showing against the Lions this Sunday night.

And, predictably, Rodgers has also bounced back with his top target back in the fold. His completion percentage is up five points and he’s thrown for more yards (4,128) and touchdowns (36) and fewer interceptions (seven) than last season, putting him in the conversation for a third MVP award.

Twitter: @justin_rogers