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.
And who could forget his magnificent play in Super Bowl XLV?
Late in the first quarter, with the Steelers backed up to their 7-yard line, Collins picked off an errant throw by Ben Roethlisberger and took it to the house. The return was as spectacular as watching the Packers go up to an early 14-0 lead in the Super Bowl.
It’s clear that the Green Bay Packers will miss the dynamic playmaking abilities of Nick Collins on the field.
One silver lining around the cloud of sobering news is that Collins is moving around normally. Neck injuries are so terrifying because of the threat of paralysis and even death, and so it’s a blessing that Collins didn’t suffer either. According to Mike McCarthy, aside from the neck brace, he has been walking around and moving normally.
Tom Silverstein of JSOnline.com just recently reported that Collins’ agent, Alan Herman, has indicated the diagnosis is not complete. It appears the signs are pointing towards a disk injury and that it is “100% not a broken neck or a spinal cord injury.”
While this has ended Nick Collins’ season, Packers fans are hoping it hasn’t ended his career.
In the meantime, Charlie Peprah will be stepping back up into the starting safety role, as he did last year. Morgan Burnett will continue to play, with undrafted rookie M.D. Jennings next in line. There’s the possibility that CB Brandian Ross could be pulled up from the practice squad if Jarrett Bush or Pat Lee are moved to the safety position.
Of course, Ted Thompson might also want to use the roster spot for a defensive lineman given Mike Neal’s current injury situation.
Either way, the defense will work with the “next man up” as they did so often last year, when 11 of the 16 injured reserve players were from the defensive side of the ball alone. However, after giving up over 850 passing yards the past two weeks to Drew Brees and top draft pick Cam Newton, the pressure will definitely be on.
But for as much of a loss as this is, the season is far from over, and I expect nothing less than for the Packers to step up their game and keep driving forward.
It’s what Nick Collins would want.——————Follow @ChadToporski