ALAMEDA (AP) — Jordy Nelson’s debut season in Oakland didn’t go exactly as he hoped when he signed with the Raiders following 10 years in Green Bay.
A team he hoped would be good enough to contend for the playoffs went into rebuilding mode instead. He dealt with knee injuries that hampered him early in the season, and it took time for him to build up a rapport with Derek Carr after so many years of catching passes from Aaron Rodgers.
But the results have been there in recent weeks as a healthy Nelson has been a staple of Oakland’s offense.
“It’s just time. It takes time. Nothing happens overnight,” Nelson said Wednesday. “We just continue to work at it. It’s chemistry, its confidence with me in him and him in me. It just takes time. It was nothing I was worried about.”
After catching five passes in a span of five games and missing another with a knee injury, Nelson has been prolific of late, starting with a 10-catch performance against Kansas City earlier this month. He has 29 catches for 308 yards the past four games, ranking tied for eighth in the NFL in catches and 12th in yards over that span.
“Anytime you get new receivers and they’re going to be a focal point, it does take some time,” Carr said. “I would say that, especially when he came off his injury, he was healthy and we had a lot of time on task. Obviously, I trust him. He’s a great receiver. I think a lot of that has to do with once he got healthy, he was ready to roll. It was really that Colts game where I felt like we were ready to hit it rolling. Then he ended up hitting his knee or whatever and he was out. When he got healthy, just ever since then, he’s a trustworthy guy that does things the right way. Usually guys like that, the ball ends up finding them.”
Nelson signed a $14.2 million, two-year contract with Oakland in March after being cut by the Packers. Nelson has no guaranteed money for next season until March and the Raiders could cut him before then with no penalty if they decide to move on from his $7.2 million salary cap hit.
Nelson essentially replaced Michael Crabtree, who was cut by the Raiders and then signed with Baltimore this past offseason, and the two have matched production. Nelson has 54 catches for 661 yards and three TDs, slightly ahead of Crabtree’s 52 catches for 587 yards and three scores for the Ravens.
While Nelson knows he’s near the end of his career at age 33, he’s not quite ready to retire and hopes to be back with the Raiders in 2019.
“I plan to,” he said. “It’s not always the player’s decision. But that’s the plan. We’ve enjoyed our time out here so far, enjoyed the team and starting the rebuilding process and being a part of that. I believe that’s the plan.”
It’s a new experience for Nelson after being with a Packers team that made the playoffs in eight of his 10 seasons in Green Bay. He almost always played in games with playoff implications before joining a Raiders team that began this year 1-8.
But Nelson has played his best down the stretch when the games have had little meaning, and he takes pride in the performance of the entire team the past few weeks when it would have been easy to pack it in.
The Raiders (4-11) have won three of their past six games and head into the season finale at Kansas City looking to build on that performance with something they can carry into next season.
Nelson has relished his role as a mentor to young receivers like rookie Marcell Ateman after being the beneficiary of that when he entered the league alongside Packers veterans Donald Driver, James Jones, Greg Jennings and Ruvell Martin.
“I think a lot of guys can take pride in that,” Nelson said. “It’s hard to do. You can get in a lull and just wish for the season to go by and not really worry about it. There are a lot of guys who have stayed true to the course and taken a lot of pride in their performance and have gotten a little bit of a taste of it. ... As much fun as you try to have playing football, if you’re not winning it’s not that much fun.”