ALAMEDA, Calif. — Jordy Nelson won’t need Kleenex tissues Friday.
The Raiders wide receiver spent the first decade of his NFL career with the Green Bay Packers. This week, he’ll face his former team for the first time since his March release. The 33-year-old downplayed the emotions surrounding the matchup.
The game, after all, is an exhibition. And it’ll be at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, not Lambeau Field.
“Emotionally, it won’t be a problem,” Nelson said.
But it will be meaningful.
The Raiders’ starters will see their heaviest — and likely last — action of the preseason on Friday evening. This follows last Saturday’s exhibition versus the Los Angeles Rams in which coach Jon Gruden rested 21 players, including 15 on offense. The Raiders believe Nelson’s path as a veteran castoff can develop into the offense’s latest success story.
Tight end Jared Cook joined in 2017 from Green Bay.
Others like left tackle Donald Penn (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), guard Kelechi Osemele (Baltimore Ravens) and center Rodney Hudson (Kansas City Chiefs) have found their stride here. Quarterback Derek Carr included running back Doug Martin (Buccaneers) on that list, although like Nelson, Martin is about three weeks from his regular-season debut with the club.
“It blows my mind,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “You see some of these guys that were on other teams that are not anymore. You’re like, ‘Man, how does that happen?’ We’re very fortunate and very blessed to have them.”
Little has changed in Green Bay since Nelson left.
He said that he’s kept in touch with Aaron Rodgers, seeing and chatting with the Packers quarterback “a couple times” over recent months. Dozens of other former teammates remain. Same for coach Mike McCarthy, many of his assistants and others within the organization.
“It’ll be fun to see those guys, not only the players but the trainers, equipment staff, weight staff, all those guys I was with for 10 years,” Nelson said. “Those are the guys you miss that you see day to day, that you don’t get to talk to as much as you’re used to. It’ll be fun to see them. It’s kind of enjoyable as a preseason game, so we can have some fun and get in and get out.”
If the Raiders deliver a message Friday to the Packers, it’ll be pretty simple.
Nelson stepped in this offseason to fill a vital role, serving as not only a polished route runner on whom Carr can rely but a veteran leader who can mentor some of the Raiders’ young wide receivers. Carr said that Nelson has been as advertised — and every bit as fast. Davante Adams, a former college teammate of Carr’s and current Packers wide receiver, told Carr to expect that much.
Ex-Packers offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Edgar Bennett is overseeing the group’s development.
In the slot, a key position battle remains.
Griff Whalen, Ryan Switzer and Seth Roberts are expected to continue their competition Friday. Coach Jon Gruden has waited for someone to emerge and demonstrate consistency. Nelson has done his part to that end, offering perspective to those in the mix.
“Just keep reminding them after practice in meetings or whatever that you can’t ride the roller coaster,” Nelson said. “For as much as we practice in training camp, you’re going to have good days; you’re going to have bad days. You’re going to have good routes; you’re going to have bad routes. … Continue to grind, and make sure you leave it out on the field. At the end of the day, if you do that, it might not be the result you want, but you’ll be comfortable with it because you took care of what you could control.”
Since his release, Nelson has controlled all he can with the Raiders.
On Friday, that will include his emotions.