Green Bay, Wis. — Jordy Nelson’s NFL career ended in the same place where it began: Lambeau Field.
Nelson signed a one-day contract with the Packers on Tuesday and announced his retirement after 11 seasons, 10 of which he spent in Green Bay.
“I’ll be remembered as a Packer,” the 34-year-old wide receiver said. “Obviously I enjoyed my year last year in Oakland. But this is where I started and it’s great to come back and end it that way.”
Nelson was known for his speed, size and chemistry with quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who was the starter for Nelson’s entire tenure in Green Bay. Rodgers’ face lit up as he spoke about his former teammate, who shook hands with both Packers and Texans players following the teams’ joint practice.
“Just the little things, the unspoken connection, the back-shoulder throws, the ability to throw it out to a spot and know he’s going to be there,” Rodgers said. “We just always had that little ability to click on the field. Excited about him in four years. I said, ‘I hope I’m on the short list of guys to introduce you for the Packer Hall of Fame.’”
The pair won a Super Bowl after the 2010 season, and Nelson was a big part of the 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, catching nine passes for 140 yards and a touchdown that he called his most cherished memory.
“To be able to be there and have that opportunity to score a touchdown there,” Nelson said. “To have that football. My son (Royal) turned 1 that week. … I still remember being down on the field with him and my wife.”
Nelson ranks third in Packers history in receptions (550), fifth in receiving yards (7,848), second in touchdown catches (69) and third in 100-yard receiving games (25). He is the only player in franchise history to record three seasons with 13-plus touchdown receptions. Nelson and Sterling Sharpe are the only Packers players to have three straight seasons with 85 catches or more.
“When him and Aaron really started getting on the whole back-shoulder thing, it was just kind of an unstoppable thing,” Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said. “They kind of would toy with opponents.”
The Packers drafted Nelson in the second round in 2008 out of Kansas State. He emerged as Rodgers’ favorite target in the 2011 season following that Super Bowl triumph, with 15 touchdown catches on a team that went 15-1.
“For me, keeping it simple is what did it,” he said. “There wasn’t much extra stuff.”
Nelson missed the 2015 season with a torn ACL. He returned in 2016 and had 97 catches for 1,257 yards and a league-best 14 touchdowns, earning Comeback Player of the Year honors.
But he struggled in 2017, when Rodgers was limited to seven games because of injury, and the Packers released him in the offseason.
Nelson spent last season with the Raiders. He had 63 receptions for 739 yards and three touchdowns for a team that finished 4-12.
“There was no regret there at all,” Nelson said. “Obviously the season wasn’t what we wanted, but you can’t ever determine that. That decision is what we made, and we definitely enjoyed it. We even debated staying an extra year there just for fun, but that place is way too expensive.”
Nelson said there were teams interested in his services this season. He even visited with the Seahawks. But he said he didn’t want to move his family around the country to extend his career, and he said getting his body ready for games was becoming more difficult.
Instead, he’ll return to his home state of Kansas with his wife, Emily, and their three children. He plans to build a new house and has been helping his brother on the family farm.
“We enjoyed it to the fullest,” Nelson said. “Made a lot of friendships, a lot of memories. My family’s enjoyed it. It’s been good.”
Watch and win
Washington will become the first NFL team to have a gambling-focused telecast of their games, offering cash prizes to viewers who correctly predict in-game outcomes during the preseason.
The telecasts on the regional cable network NBC Sports Washington will follow a formula established by NBA neighbors, the Washington Wizards. The Wizards, however, offered the free-to-play contests during the regular season, while Washington will have them only during the four preseason games, when NBC Sports Washington has TV rights.
The network will continue to offer a traditional telecast on its main channel, while the gambling-focused telecast will air simultaneously on its secondary channel, NBC Sports Washington Plus. Damon Phillips, the network’s general manager, says Wizards games saw increased ratings and fan engagement when the in-game contests were available.
Phillips says starting the interactive telecasts now allows the network to be ready when legal online or mobile sports betting becomes available in its viewing area. The network could in theory accept real-time wagers on proposition bets offered during the telecast if it were to partner with a sportsbook operator. For now, the games are free to play and the network will give away $1,000 in cash to one winner per quarter of each game.
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