GREEN BAY, Wisconsin — The task of finding receivers who will fill the void left by Jordy Nelson's season-ending injury has started in earnest in Green Bay.
Coach Mike McCarthy said no one man can pick up the slack.
Randall Cobb caught 91 passes last year from MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers, second on the team to Nelson's 98. Now Cobb is clearly the top option with Nelson out with a right knee injury.
But that doesn't necessarily change Cobb's role.
"I think it's very important for everybody — Randall, the coaches — just to stay focused on what we need to do," McCarthy said Wednesday before practice, "and that's not try to ask or put pressure on any individual to try to do more."
Not that Cobb would necessarily slide into Nelson's exact role anyway. They were used differently last season.
The 6-foot-3 Nelson excelled especially at catching deep balls from Rodgers and making tough catches along the sideline as if he was walking a tightrope. The 5-foot-10 Cobb did much of his damage over the middle and became a go-to option for Rodgers on third downs.
"Every player on offense has a distinct role," McCarthy said. "We all understand the type of player Jordy is, but we're not asking any of our receivers or any of our offensive players now to go out and try to replace Jordy Nelson. That's not the plan."
On Twitter this week, Cobb wrote that Nelson was one of the most influential teammates that he has had on and off the field, and that he was dedicating this season to Nelson.
"They better not have a bad one," Nelson joked Tuesday in the locker room, a pair of crutches sitting behind him on a table.
Cobb will miss that camaraderie on the field on Sundays.
"First off, you can't replace Jordy Nelson," Cobb said. "He's an unbelievable player ... it's going to be really a challenge for us as a group to try to make up where ends meet."
Cobb celebrated his 25th birthday on Saturday. Entering his fifth year in the league, he's already the most tenured player on the receiving corps with Nelson out; Nelson called that "weird."
Cobb appears to be setting a high standard on the practice field. While teammates were running through one special teams drill on Tuesday, Cobb was off to the sideline lying on his back but with his head bent upward and arms out, to catch footballs from a machine.
Cobb repeated this drill for several minutes, turning his body and head every so often to catch passes from the ground at different angles.
After Cobb, second-year player Davante Adams would by the next most-experienced player with 38 receptions during his promising 2014 rookie season.
Ty Montgomery, a third-round pick this year out of Stanford, has impressed so far in camp. Myles White has the speed to go deep, while the 6-foot-3 Jeff Janis has size, but both young players have seen very limited action.
"You lose players in this game sometimes, and you have to go on," general manager Ted Thompson said Wednesday. "But you have extraordinary players, someone like Jordy. With an extraordinary player you don't expect to replace the person ... one for one or anything like that."
The typically guarded Thompson gave no indication as to whether he would look into veteran help specifically at receiver as teams start making more cuts over the next few weeks. He said the Packers are always studying rosters across the league at every position.
"I think it will command the work of the entire offense and the entire team to make up for that loss," Thompson added. "But that's our goal going forward is to be able to win games, be successful in spite of the very disappointing injury. It's as simple as that. It's as difficult as that."