According to NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport, Jordy Nelson had a surgical procedure to address an "old nerve issue he's dealt with off-and-on since Kansas State" but is expected to return to play in Green Bay's season opening game. Adam Schefter would later confirm that team doctors believe Nelson will need between 4-6 weeks to recover.
Mike McCarthy provided no details on Nelson's procedure at his post-practice press conference, but Rapoport tweeted that "James Jones had [a] similar issue and is fine." Jones had nerve-related symptoms in his knee after spraining his PCL in 2008. Here's what Packers' beat reporter, Rob Demovsky, reported during training camp the following season:
Along with the damage to his PCL, Jones also experienced what he called nerve damage in his knee. He said whenever he banged his knee, a nerve would “get squished.”
In an interview on Tuesday, Jones revealed for the first time that he had surgery on his right knee less than a week after the season. Previously, he had hid the surgery from reporters. He said team physician Dr. Pat McKenzie “had to go in there and cut some tissue out” that was causing the nerve damage.
With his knee surgically repaired, Jones returned to his native California and resumed his regular offseason training regimen with his old position coach at San Jose State. He hasn’t missed a single play of training camp thus far.
“I’m definitely back to being myself,” Jones said. “My knee is 100 percent, and that’s really the only thing I was worried about. I’d never really been injured before. I’m just glad it’s behind me. I’d be lying if I said last season wasn’t (frustrating). It was definitely frustrating.”
Nelson suffered a sprained PCL while at Kansas State in 2006. Many PCL sprains are allowed to scar and remodel rather than repaired surgically. Given the available information, it's reasonable to believe that Nelson has had episodes of pain -- and possibly some associated lower leg muscle weakness -- due to scar tissue from that injury.
Removing the scar tissue and any additional tissue that may be chronically irritating the nerve is a relatively simple surgical procedure. Recent medical studies suggest the procedure is effective around 80% of the time. The 4-6 week timetable is reasonable -- the relatively long recovery time is because the surgery requires an incision rather than an arthroscope -- but it assumes that Nelson's symptoms will fully resolve.
Unfortunately, that's not always the case with nerve related procedures. Chronically inflamed nerve tissue may not fully recover and regeneration of scar tissue with recurrent symptoms is also possible. That makes it difficult to predict Nelson's outcome. However, the early reports are optimistic, and it's notable that Nelson has played at a high level while experiencing symptoms in the past.
But there's a reason that Nelson is choosing surgery now -- possibly seven years after first having symptoms and so close to the start of the regular season -- his symptoms are worse and limiting his play.
For now, I think it's reasonable to buy into the optimistic early reports offered by media insiders. Fantasy owners shouldn't necessarily drop Nelson multiple tiers on their draft boards. But if Nelson's recovery starts to drag into the regular season, it could mean his nerve tissue isn't recovering as hoped. And if that's the case, his timetable for a full recovery gets very murky. The first true indication of his progress will probably come in 3-4 weeks, but I'll have more on the blog as news breaks.
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