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.
Replacing Finley in this current offense is not possible with the current tight ends on the roster. Andrew Quarless missed almost a season and a half recovering from his leg injury and has never emerged as any type of pass-catching threat. So far this season, I have seen nothing to tell me that he will, either. Recently promoted rookie Jake Stoneburner saw some action against the Cleveland Browns and the team has high hopes for him. Still, he couldn’t crack the 53-man roster out of training camp and remained on the Packers practice squad for the first six weeks of the season. My expectations are duly tempered.
The emergence of Green Bay’s run game will allow head coach Mike McCarthy a few more options in how to handle the loss of Finley on the field. But they still need to account for a weapon removed from quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ arsenal. This week, the Packers may still be without receiver James Jones when they face the Minnesota Vikings. That means that besides Jordy Nelson, the Packers are down to Jarrett Boykin, Myles White, Brandon Bostick, Quarless and Stoneburner at receiver and tight end.
Jones should be back the week following, if not this week. Assuming Finley ends up on season-ending injured reserve and before receiver Randall Cobb potentially returns in December, the Packers could look to add another pass catcher. The typical route would be for general manager Ted Thompson to try and pluck someone from a practice squad around the league or even possibly off the street.
Another could be a trade. This scenario is not as likely, based on Thompson’s history. Is it worth whatever the Packers have to give up and the additional salary cap hit to bring in a big name? In putting on my “Ted Thompson” hat, I’d have to say probably not because there is no apparent “missing link” out there that can drastically improve the Packers’ chances of having a successful season and more importantly, postseason.
It’s often easy to get caught up in the unexpected loss of a player who has been a big part of a football team. Many times, the emotional and knee-jerk response is to look for an immediately replacement to that position. Sign the biggest name or make a blockbuster trade and make everything OK again. The problem is the ripple effect that can have on a team or organization. Financial implications, the fit in the team’s game plan and team chemistry are just a few examples of factors that need to be considered before a move is made.
With the Bears dealing with major injuries of their own and the Lions having come down to earth a bit, Green Bay is sitting in the driver’s seat in the NFC North. The Packers aren’t in a situation where they need to do something drastic, in other words.
In Finley’s case, he has certainly been a hotly debated topic of conversation. What he brings to the Green Bay offense will be missed and as I said earlier, it cannot be replaced with any one player currently on the Packers’ roster. Like they have done many times before when a player is lost, the Packers can likely create success in other ways with what they have. They also know that they will likely get a few key pieces back along the way. Thus begins life after Finley for Green Bay.
Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on AllGreenBayPackers.comFollow Jason Perone: