GREEN BAY, Wis. — Jordy Nelson had a secret on the way to the first practice of Packers training camp.
It didn’t take long for the rest of his teammates to find out.
Green Bay’s leading receiver now has a deal commensurate with his production after signing a contract extension just before taking the field Saturday morning.
“So I was like the last one in the locker room and waiting on the paperwork to come down to get it done. That way, I had some security when I went out to practice,” Nelson said. “That was a little bit different, and knowing no one knew (but) me the whole time I’m riding down there and on the field.”
Soon enough, Nelson told fellow receivers and the quarterbacks. Coach Mike McCarthy found out in the middle of practice. Right about the time that Nelson was making a pretty touchdown catch on a long corner pass from Aaron Rodgers, word filtered out on social media.
The Packers didn’t divulge terms when announcing the signing after the end of practice, and NFL.com reported it was a four-year, $39 million deal with an $11.5 million signing bonus.
“He said he re-signed and he was really happy,” Rodgers said. “Now he can buy all the land in Kansas. I’m very happy.”
Nelson, a Kansas native who attended Kansas State, posted career-bests of 85 catches and 1,314 yards last season. The 2008 second-round pick has developed into one of the top receivers in the league with his ability to make sideline catches.
Rodgers thinks Nelson has top-notch instincts and reactions.
“So it’s fun to see Jordy re-sign for four more. I told him that that’s five (years) for him and I’ve got six left, so we’re going to have to do one more after that and stick around a little bit longer,” Rodgers said.
The signing secures the team’s top player at a position that had several high-profile departures in recent years. Reliable veteran James Jones left for Oakland in free agency in the offseason. After the 2012 season, Donald Driver retired and Greg Jennings departed as a free agent for division rival Minnesota.
Now the Packers must also decide how to proceed with receiver Randall Cobb, a 2011 second-round pick going into the final year of his rookie deal.
“Well, every coach wants his core guys, no doubt about it,” McCarthy said. “Like I said before, if I was in charge of the player checkbook, we would have been way over the budget a long time ago.”
Nelson’s extension overshadowed what likely would have been the top story line of Day 1 with the return of pass-rushing linebacker Clay Matthews. He watched during offseason workouts while recovering from a second surgery in the offseason to repair a broken right thumb.
Practice Saturday had the Packers lining up Matthews and defensive end-linebacker Julius Peppers — the team’s big free-agent acquisition — on the field at the same time. It’s the ideal pass-rushing scenario for the team going into 2014.
Matthews had what looked like a flexible black wrap protecting his right hand. There were no limitations with the linebacker, other than “just being smart,” McCarthy said.
The recovery process appeared to be a little frustrating for the long-haired linebacker.
The thumb “feels pretty strong and will continue to get stronger with the reps I take on the football field,” Matthews said. “This offseason was definitely an uphill battle coming off an injury, but I think that just makes this year that much more special to me.”
It will likely be memorable one as well for Nelson because of the extension. Lauded for his leadership qualities, Nelson seems content to finish his career in Green Bay.
Nelson realizes this is a business. He also said he never considered holding out.
“I don’t like the word ‘worth,’” Nelson said, interrupting a reporter who used it in a question. “I don’t like the word ‘worth’ because to be honest with you, I don’t think any of us are worth this money. But it’s your value and the business we’re a part of.”