6

February

Former and Current Free Agent Packers Want To Return

Jermichael Finley

Finley seems determined to return to football and prove that he is back to full strength

The NFL season has been over for a measly three days now but the Green Bay Packers season has been over for nearly a month.  Things obviously slow down when teams aren’t preparing for games each week and the constant news hits dwindle.

Still, this has been a busy week for some Packers chatter and I thought I’d offer a break in between our player evaluation and reports cards here at allgbp.com and highlight a few of the stories that have been most widely discussed.

“Discussed” and “news” are two different things, but if nothing else, there are at least a few debate topics here.

The first was a story by NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling about tight end Jermichael Finley.  Finley is currently a free agent after having spent the first six years of his NFL career with the Packers.  Finley’s agent has gone on record as saying that J-Mike, as he is frequently called, would love nothing more than to finish his career in Green Bay.  Whether that will happen is another thing.

Finley was seriously injured early in the 2013 season on a play in which he took a shot to his neck by Cleveland Browns safety Tashaun Gipson.  Finley was placed on season-ending injured reserve and needed surgery to fuse the C3 and C4 vertebrae in his neck.  Many question swirled about whether Finley would play football again, let alone return to the Packers.

Finley stated earlier this week that he expects his doctors to clear him to resume football activity, most notably contact, within the next month or so.  Gaining medical clearance from a doctor is one thing.  Gaining that clearance from a NFL team doctor is another.

While Finley and his agent have expressed a preference to remain in Green Bay and get a new contract worked out, Finley has also stated that he does not plan to discount his services.  With 19 total players set to hit free agency next month, the Packers are going to have some decisions to make as far as who to keep and at what price.

Finley certainly represents a risk, even if cleared to return to football.  There can be no guarantee that he won’t re-injure his neck and such an occurrence would have major implications not only for Finley the football player, but also Finley the man, husband and father.  It’s hard to say which direction Finley’s return and potential negotiations with interested teams will go.

31

January

Finley Expects Medical Update Soon

Packers TE Jermichael Finley

Finley, an unrestricted free agent, expects to return to the NFL in 2014

A short story surfaced on the NFL’s website today stating that Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley could be medically cleared to return to full contact football activities as soon as three to four weeks from now.

The original source of the story was ProFootballTalk.com and Finley told them that his doctors are “99.9% confident” that he will be cleared to resume his football career.

Keep in mind that these are Finley’s doctors that would be giving this clearance, not a NFL team doctor.

We have often heard players say they are fine when they are really injured and that they expect to be back by a certain time, only to wind up on injured reserve.  In Finley’s case, I have no doubt that he will get another shot to play in the NFL again.  I’m just not sure that will be with the Packers.

Finley will become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins in March.  He has said that he does not intend to offer teams any discounts on his services.  Besides the New Orleans Saints’ Jimmy Graham, a truly healthy Finley is the next biggest name on the free agent market at tight end.  I would be surprised if Finley’s agent doesn’t get at least one call from an interested team.

In the Packers’ case, they have many pending free agents of their own to look at and evaluate.  They obviously won’t bring them all back and they will likely have to part with a few they would like to return.  The defensive side of the ball continues to be a need area and that would likely be a deterrent to paying a healthy Finley what he is looking for.  But we’re talking about a risky Finley.

When it comes to risks, the Packers don’t mess around.  They chose not to return safety Nick Collins when the star safety suffered a similar injury in 2011.  Collins was eventually released and has not played in the NFL since.  Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said that if Collins were his son, he wouldn’t let him return to football.  Still, Collins played safety and was a hard-hitting one at that.  Perhaps the Packers or another team might feel that the risk is much lessened for the tight end.

22

October

Life After Finley

Jermichael Finley

Have we seen the last of Finley in a Packers uniform?

Less than 48 hours removed from the sight of Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley being carted off the field, we continue to learn more.  More about the injury, about Finley and about what is facing the Packers in these next few weeks.

Before I continue, I preface this by saying that I am not trying to be insensitive to the situation and decisions that are facing Finley right now.  Any Packers fan need only think back two short years and to Nick Collins to remember how badly these types of situations can end.

I am one who, if it were me in Finley’s shoes, would probably stop playing.  I have to wonder what I would have said a year ago, but as a new father, my perspective has changed.

Just three weeks ago, Finley suffered a concussion and would have missed the next week’s game, were it not for the Packers bye week.  Afterward, Finley admitted that his own kids told him that they didn’t want him to play football anymore because of the dangers that come with repeated head injuries.

Finley’s latest injury has been described as a bruised spinal cord.  While we all get bumps and bruises from time to time, this is the backbone that we are talking about.  Even a bruise is a scary thought.  Every bruise needs to heal and while I’m not anything close to a doctor, it would seem that there has to be some chance that this injury may have long-term health implications for Finley.

He was reportedly doing fine as of earlier today and after he was released from intensive care at the hospital.  We also know that he did regain feeling in both his arms and legs.  He was walking around on his own, which is the best news for Finley, the man.

As far as Finley the football player, the Packers still have to go out and play on Sunday and for the remaining nine games after that.  They are going to be without #88 indefinitely.  It will be weeks before the team can even determine if Finley could come back and play, not to mention if he wants to return and play.  I personally would be surprised to see Finley back and with the team this year and at all, really.

19

September

Green Bay Packers Safety Nick Collins Goes on Injured Reserve

Nick Collins left the Panthers game on a stretcher after suffering a neck injury in the 4th quarter.

Safety Nick Collins, a three-time Pro Bowler for the Green Bay Packers, will finish the year on injured reserve after suffering a neck injury against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. The heartbreaking news was delivered as the first point of order in Mike McCarthy’s press conference this afternoon.

“It’s tough. It’s something you never get used to as a coach,” McCarthy said. He offered no further details, but said it was too early to tell if he would require surgery.

Collins was injured in the fourth quarter of the game after an attempted tackle on Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart. During the play, Stewart tried to hurdle the oncoming Collins, whose head hit the underside of the runner’s leg. Collins’ neck bent awkwardly on the hit and sent him to the ground, face down and motionless.

While being carted off the field, Collins gave a slight wave to the crowd, signaling that he dodged the worst.

McCarthy mentioned during the post-game press conference that Collins was “still under evaluation” but that “all the feedback so far [was] positive.” The Green Bay Packers website later released a statement saying, “Nick Collins has normal feeling and complete movement in his extremities. As is standard protocol, he will be kept in the hospital overnight for observation.”

Yesterday’s optimistic news regarding the injury is probably what makes the loss so shocking, but what makes the news so depressing is the impact that Nick Collins has had on the Packers defense.

Since being selected by Green Bay in the second round of the 2005 NFL Draft, Collins has played in all but 3 of the 95 regular season games during his career. His stats include 419 tackles, 21 interceptions, 6 forced fumbles, 4 touchdowns, and 67 passes defended. In addition to his Pro Bowl selections, Collins was also chosen for the Associated Press NFL All-Pro team the past three seasons.

Many fans, however, will remember him for his most recent contributions to the Packers’ Super Bowl XLV run and eventual victory.

His first big moment came in the final seconds of the must-win Week 16 game against the Chicago Bears. With a 10-3 lead, the Packers had to stave off a final drive by Jay Cutler. Then, on second-and-10, Collins seals the victory by intercepting an overthrown ball intended for Devin Hester. That final play of the game secured the wild card playoff berth for Green Bay.