GREEN BAY — Even while he was with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Davon House was a Green Bay Packers fan. And like most Packers fans, he was crushed watching his team get blown out by the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game last January.
“We were a game away from the Super Bowl again,” said House, who was with the Packers for the 2014 NFC Championship Game loss to Seattle. “As a fan, after the game I kind of felt like I lost the game — and I wasn’t even out there.”
He’ll be out there Sunday night, having returned to the Packers as a free agent in March after being cut by the Jaguars. And while it doesn’t appear to be the Packers’ plan to match House up on Falcons No. 1 wide receiver Julio Jones, he’s the one player in the secondary who’s had real success against him after Jones carved up the Packers defense (nine receptions, 180 yards, two touchdowns) in January. Jones’ limited production in an October regular-season meeting (three catches, 29 yards) was largely due to a knee injury he suffered early on.
In a 2014 game at Lambeau Field, Jones was in the middle of a 259-yard performance when the coaches put House on him in the fourth quarter and neutralized him. Both players ended up leaving that game with injuries after House broke up a potential touchdown pass to Jones in the end zone late in the game.
And while that game itself may not be a factor — “Having House back, that’s great, (but) that was a long time ago; it’s irrelevant,” cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said — having another coverage option against Jones is a plus. So is having a healthy Damarious Randall, a healthy Quinten Rollins and rookie Kevin King as options.
“It’s a good thing I’ve faced a guy like him already, but everyone is going to get a chance to guard him,” said House, who followed Jones in a 2015 game with the Jaguars, in which Jones caught nine passes for 118 yards and a score. “Me, ‘D,’ Kevin, ‘Q.’ Everyone is going to have a chance to see what they’ve got on him.
“You try to contain him. The guy’s good. If not the best, he’s No. 2, if not No. 1. The guy is phenomenal. Big, strong, fast, physical. He’s everything you want in a receiver.”
Happy and healthy
Jordy Nelson wanted to make two things perfectly clear: He never wore a Kevlar vest in the NFC Championship Game last January, and he wasn’t lying when he said his broken ribs felt “great” throughout that game.
All the Packers’ No. 1 receiver wore for protection against the Falcons was a traditional quarterback flak jacket with some added padding rigged up by the medical and equipment staffs, and the only thing that really hurt Nelson was the final outcome, which was the Packers’ second conference title game loss in three years.
“I didn’t lie to you guys after the game. I felt great. I’m dead serious,” Nelson said. “I don’t know what I need to do to get you to believe it.”
More important: Nelson is feeling A-OK entering Sunday night’s game, which pits two of the NFL’s best quarterbacks and most dynamic offenses against each other. In last week’s season-opening win over Seattle, Nelson caught seven passes for 79 yards from quarterback Aaron Rodgers, including a 32-yard touchdown on a free play.
While Nelson’s surgically repaired right knee appeared to be full strength against the Falcons in the NFC title game, he had missed the previous week’s NFC divisional win over Dallas because of the rib injury he suffered in the NFC wild card round against the New York Giants.
“I couldn’t believe it either to be honest with you. If you would’ve seen me the Saturday before the Dallas game, I couldn’t lay on the floor without being miserable. Like I couldn’t lay down and get up,” Nelson said when told his teammates are still surprised he played against the Falcons that afternoon. “But (the doctors) told me in seven days after breaking them, you’ll start feeling better and I swear it was seven days to the minute and I instantly felt better.
“Down at Dallas at halftime, I won’t ever forget it — I caught a ball at halftime warming up with Brett (Hundley) and Aaron, and Brett threw it a little high and I had to reach up above my head and I just did it and didn’t think about it. I don’t remember how it went throughout the week, but by the time we got to Wednesday practice, I knew I was playing. I didn’t have any worries or questions about it.”
To Mike McCarthy’s credit, he acted quickly to alter the team’s practice schedule this week after players’ feedback indicated they were less than thrilled with his decision to move Wednesday practices to 3:15 p.m. While the Packers’ coach made it clear that he didn’t take a “vote” from the players and decide to make the change, he did listen to their opinions, just as he did earlier in his career when players told him his nighttime training-camp practices weren’t ideal.
“I think listening in general is so important. I know I listen a lot more today than I did 10 years ago,” McCarthy said. “Whether it’s my players, whether it’s my family, everything that’s going on around us. Yeah, it’s about collecting information, evaluating it and really seeing if you can apply it.
“The feedback I got from the veteran players, they’re into the way we’ve done it (in previous years). We’ve always got in here early, got ’em going early. … So, we’ve gone back to the old schedule and this is not a huge adjustment. I don’t think this is a game-changer.”