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NFL notebook: Jordy Nelson practices for first time in camp with Packers

Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson, right, watches wide receiver Jared Abbrederis during football training camp. (Matt Ludtke / Associated Press)
Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson, right, watches wide receiver Jared Abbrederis during football training camp. (Matt Ludtke / Associated Press)
Associated Press

Jordy Nelson’s return to practice was greeted with big cheers as the Green Bay Packers got one of their big playmakers back.

At least for a little bit of practice.

Nelson, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, was limited to individual drills Monday and primarily ran routes on air and caught passes from Aaron Rodgers and rookie backups Joe Callahan and Marquise Williams. His goal is simple in his long-awaited comeback: Be ready to play this year’s season opener on the road against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sept. 11.

“Obviously, there’s prep that goes into the season with the training camp,” Nelson said, “but the important stuff is the games, when it really matters.”

The Packers activated Nelson, entering his ninth year, from the physically unable to perform list last week after he had been out with an injury to his other knee.

After keeping his nose in the playbook and paying close attention to the tendencies of defensive backs as he watched practice while he was sidelined, Nelson doesn’t feel the missed time on the field will be detrimental.

“I felt better today, honestly, than what I thought I was going to be, wind-wise, conditioning-wise, of running those routes and being full padded and everything,” Nelson said. “So I thought that was a good sign.”

He acknowledged with a laugh that his cameo work on the field Monday hardly constituted a practice. But that was good enough for those seated in the nearby bleachers as they cheered every catch by Nelson, who participated in warmups with the team before Green Bay’s preseason game Thursday.

“Yeah, obviously, the fans are excited,” Nelson said. “I’m excited to be back out there practicing and getting ready for Week 1.”

Nelson, who tore the ACL in his right knee in a preseason game last summer at Pittsburgh, doesn’t know if he will be cleared to play any of the Packers’ remaining two exhibition games. That includes Friday night at San Francisco, where Rodgers could get his first preseason action.

“We’re progressing,” said Nelson, then adding, “It’s a fluid situation of how everything reacts and how we feel.”

While Nelson being on the field was big news, the Packers solidified another significant development with their offense. Coach Mike McCarthy announced before practice that JC Tretter earned the starting spot at center over incumbent Corey Linsley, who is on the PUP list because of a hamstring injury.

“JC Tretter has had an excellent camp,” said McCarthy, who alluded to Linsley’s prolonged unavailability this summer as a factor in the decision.

Tretter, who has been working with the first-string offensive line since the first day of training camp, took the news in stride after he was informed by the coaches Monday morning.

“It’ll be a great opportunity, but I don’t think the mindset really changes much,” said Tretter, a fourth-year pro. “It’s just continue to grind away and continue to do what you can to get better every day.”

Trevor Siemian to start Broncos’ third preseason game

Coach Gary Kubiak named Trevor Siemian the starter for the Broncos’ third preseason game over Mark Sanchez and said he will decide next week who will be under center against Carolina for the season opener on Sept. 8.

“It’s down to the nitty gritty here,” Kubiak said. “I don’t have to but I’m going to make a decision next week and we’re going to go to work. I’ve seen a lot of football from them. We’re going to go again this week and we’ll make a decision next week.”

Kubiak said Siemian, Sanchez and rookie Paxton Lynch will play an equal amount Saturday against the Los Angeles Rams.

Siemian and Sanchez ended training camp sharing the No. 1 quarterback spot on the team depth chart but neither has been able to claim the job outright. Both struggled with turnovers in Saturday’s 31-24 loss to San Francisco.

Siemian was 10 of 14 for 75 yards but threw an interception that was picked off by Ed Reid and returned 42 yards for a touchdown.

“I thought Trevor did a good job the other night,” Kubiak said. “Obviously there’s one play he’d like to have back or it would have been as good as it could be. I’m going to give him a chance to do that again.”

Kubiak said Siemian took a shot to his shoulder trying to make a tackle on the play. He said the sore shoulder shouldn’t prevent him from practicing Tuesday or playing Saturday.

Sanchez is the only quarterback on the staff with meaningful regular season experience but he struggled after relieving Siemian on Saturday night. He led the Broncos to a field goal but was sacked three times and fumbled twice. He was 10 of 17 for 120 yards and was nearly picked off by cornerback Chris Davis.

“I squandered a great opportunity to separate myself and put the team in a bad situation,” Sanchez said after the game. “No excuse for that. Poor, poor quarterbacking play.”

The Broncos traded for Sanchez after Peyton Manning retired and Brock Osweiler signed with Houston. Denver was hoping to avoid the uncertainty that persisted last year between Manning and Osweiler. Osweiler started seven games when Manning was out with a foot injury, but Manning came on in the season finale to rally the Broncos past San Diego and secure the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

Manning was named the starter for the postseason and led the Broncos to a Super Bowl victory behind a dominant defense.

The drama of 2015 has helped the players deal with the quarterback battle in training camp.

“A lot of guys were here last year and we dealt with the situation last year,” tight end Virgil Green said. “We made it work.”

Kubiak said he isn’t surprised the battle has lasted through training camp and deep into the preseason.

“I knew this was going to take some time,” he said.

The Broncos also got stronger on defense with the return of linebacker DeMarcus Ware. Ware came off the non-football/injury list Monday and is expected to take part in practice Tuesday.

Ware missed training camp while dealing with a back injury that kept him out of five games in 2015.

49ers’ Colin Kaepernick on track to make preseason debut

After being kept from throwing during team drills since Aug. 10 while nursing a sore shoulder, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw against the defense.

Kaepernick is on track to make his preseason debut Friday against the Packers in San Francisco’s third preseason game. His injury allowed Blaine Gabbert to start the first two exhibition games against the Texans and Broncos while he competes against Kaepernick for the starting job under first-year coach Chip Kelly.

“You know you got to get used to that cannon, man,” 49ers receiver Bruce Ellington said. “It was good. Kap, his arm was still strong. He’s still throwing it in the right places.”

Jimmie Ward, who covered Ellington in practice, said Kaepernick connected with Ellington on a route to the corner during seven-on-seven drills.

“It was a great throw,” Ward said. “Kap was making some good throws today.”

Kaepernick resumed throwing on the side during joint practices with the Broncos at their Englewood, Colorado, headquarters last week. He had an extensive throwing session with Ellington running routes on the field before the 49ers’ 31-24 victory Saturday.

At the start of training camp, Kaepernick and Gabbert split first-team practice reps.

Kaepernick spent the majority of the offseason program recovering from surgeries on his left shoulder, right hand and left knee and was not cleared to resume throwing until minicamp in early June. He participated in his first full-team sessions at the start of training camp July 31.

“We don’t want to throw him back out there and then have a setback right now,” Kelly said. “So, as we said before, from what we understand it’s not a long-term thing.”

With Kaepernick sidelined, Gabbert completed 10 of 19 passes for 132 yards with a touchdown throw in two preseason games. He played three series against both Houston and Denver.

In addition to Kaepernick’s absence, the 49ers lost quarterback Thaddeus Lewis for the season when he tore an anterior cruciate ligament during the preseason opener. They signed former Vikings first-round pick Christian Ponder on Aug. 16 and he made his San Francisco debut four days later against the defending Super Bowl champions.

Ponder led two late scoring drives, running for a 22-yard touchdown and finding receiver Dres Anderson on a 30-yard touchdown pass with 6:27 to go, which was the game’s decisive score. Ponder completed seven of eight throws for 86 yards.

Colts fortify injury-filled secondary by signing Cromartie

The Colts fortified an injury-filled secondary by signing veteran cornerback Antonio Cromartie.

Terms of the deal were not immediately available when the team made the announcement.

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Cromartie has 31 interceptions and 115 passes defensed in 10 seasons that started in San Diego. He played four seasons with the New York Jets, spent 2014 with Arizona and returned to the Jets last season. Cromartie’s interception total ranks third among all active players.

Indy needed another cornerback after one starter, Patrick Robinson, hurt his groin in Saturday night’s 19-18 loss to Baltimore. Pro Bowl cornerback Vontae Davis is considered week to week after an MRI found that he has a sprained ankle.

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