Cardinals wide receiver J.J. Nelson is in his second NFL training camp, and his year of experience and close teammates are each helping him improve.
Nelson, 24, was drafted was drafted in the fifth round by the Cardinals in 2015 out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Last season, his 2 starts and 11 games yielded 11 receptions for 299 yards and 2 touchdowns.
As a guest on Off the Edge with B-Train on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM on Monday, the sophomore receiver discussed the difficulty of being a rookie.
“(I was) trying to learn the playbook. Still trying to learn how the practices go – the long days,” Nelson said. “And really trying to get that rest at night. So right now, after that one year, I feel like I know what it takes to learn how to practice and learn how to take care of my body each and every day.”
In fact, Nelson said taking care of his body is one of his main goals for the upcoming season.
“If you’re not healthy and you’re not on the field, you’re not making money,” he said. “They brought us here to play football, to take care of our bodies, so if you’re not on the field you’re not doing your job. So that’s what I’m looking forward to doing.”
As Nelson starts to learn more about what to do off the field to be successful in the NFL, he’s also finding his place on the field.
“I feel very comfortable. Still always learning from Mike (Floyd), Larry (Fitzgerald), [John Brown],” he said. “But really just feel comfortable knowing what I’m able to do out there on the field and knowing my strengths and my weaknesses.”
Those receivers that he learns from are part of a corps that also includes Jaron Brown, Brittan Golden, Jaxon Shipley and four rookies. Nelson said they get along off the field, too.
“We joke around a lot. At the end of the day it’s about business,” he said. “We try not to spend too much energy because on the field, we’re just running up and down. But we still have fun, we still joke around and everything so it’s pretty cool.”
One of Nelson’s closest teammates isn’t a receiver at all — it’s Cariel Brooks, a cornerback from Adams State, also in his second season.
“We hang out all the time,” Nelson said. “We’re best buds, we’re teammates, but we hang out all the time. We’ve actually got the same birthday so that kind of clicked on us. He’s a defensive back. We just talk about the ins and outs, like what he thinks that I should do, what I think that he should do. Actually, we work out one-on-ones on by ourselves on an off-field, we work together. We play the game all the time. Cariel, he helped me out a lot.”
Whether working with Brooks or otherwise, Nelson said he’s looking to help the team, not his stats.
“I’m all about winning. At the end of the day, if it’s my job to line up wide and run all the way down field full speed to get Larry wide open underneath I’ll take that, as long as we win and as long as we get those rings on our finger at the end of the day – that’s all I’m looking forward to.”