CHICAGO — Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson makes waves with his play on the field, almost never with his words.
And yet last Friday, when his now-former teammate Martellus Bennett claimed that the team's doctor, Pat McKenzie, urged him to play through a painful shoulder injury, Nelson was one of many current and former Packers players to come to the doctor's defense. That list included everyone from quarterback Aaron Rodgers to former fullback John Kuhn to former executive Andrew Brandt.
But Nelson's defense of McKenzie was most surprising in that he's one of the more quiet and one of the least controversial players on the team. Nelson is the perfect Packer in so many ways, but his conservative, even-keeled approach is chief among them. Seeing him take to Twitter to passionately defend McKenzie was a surprise to many.
Nelson never named Bennett in his Twitter message but did make sure to take care of his own, writing: “Dr. McKenzie is very cautious about putting players on the field with an injury and always puts the player’s health before the team.”
For Nelson, he felt it was his duty to perhaps do something a bit outside of his comfort zone to make people hear what he believes is the truth of the matter.
"When it's the right thing to do, it's the right thing to do," he explained after Sunday's Packers win over the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. "Our doctors and trainers are some of the best in the NFL. They're the only ones I've been around, but they do a great job.
"So for someone to say that our doctors try to throw someone out there when they're too injured to play is not true. He's a very conservative doctor — almost to a fault. We [players] don't like it. That's just what I wanted to express."
Bennett was released for failing to disclose an injury, and it was clear long before the New England Patriots claimed Bennett on waivers that the Packers were going to not only dispute Bennett's claims but also perhaps go after some of the guaranteed-money portion of the three-year, $21 million deal they signed him to in March.
Interestingly, Bennett practiced on a limited basis on Friday with the Patriots and was listed questionable for Sunday night's game at the Denver Broncos, but he was active for the game despite claiming that he needed season-ending shoulder surgery when he was with the Packers.
Nelson is among the Packers' most vested players, and he's dealt with myriad injuries over the years, so he knows from whence he speaks. And even though Nelson said the players don't like when the medical staff errs on the side of caution in Green Bay, he said he also understands why they do it — to protect them against themselves.
"We love those guys. They do a lot for us," he said.
Some other Packers players, such as defensive end Mike Daniels, didn't want to talk about the Bennett exodus. "That had nothing to do with today's game," Daniels said. Others, such as left tackle David Bakhtiari, felt like the Packers had no choice but to just move on after Bennett was released and made his controversial comments.
"That's outside noise, and we're going to leave it outside," Bakhtiari said. "We had a job to do and that come out Sunday. It's the oldest rivalry we have and we were trying to get a W. That was what we were focused on. Any external stuff ... we had a job to do."
Bakhtiari liked that his team acted professionally and tuned that noise out in the wake of the Bennett story and was able to end a three-game losing streak in the 23-16 victory over their rivals.
"Our coaches always say, 'You have to make sure to clean up your own house,'" Bakhtiari said. "We just make sure everything is set on our end and everything else will take care of itself."