At this time last season, the Green Bay Packers were preparing for training camp and the position battles that would ensue.Â Tight end was not among them, as they had veteran Jermichael Finley in the fold and the annual talk about his having a “breakout” season was in full swing.
In 2012, Finley had just over 60 catches for two touchdowns.Â Hardly the kind of numbers you would expect from a guy who was regularly hyped as a focal point in the Packers offense.
Through six games last season, Finley had 25 catches and three touchdowns.Â He missed most of week three against the Cincinnati Bengals due to a concussion so those stats actually came in just five games.
Finley’s form seemed to look closer to the version we saw in 2009 versus that over the past three seasons.Â He seemed primed to finally achieve the infamous “p” word that has followed him throughout his career:Â potential.
That’s when catastrophe struck.Â Mid-way through their week seven game against the Cleveland Browns, Finley took a shot from Browns safety Tashaun Gipson that left him motionless on the Lambeu Field turf.Â Finley was taken off the field and immediately to a local medical center for evaluation of his spine.Â His season was over and the Packers were facing a big loss at the tight end position.
Fast forward to today and we know that Finley has been medically cleared by the surgeon who performed the surgery to fuse his spine.Â Still, Finley’s future remains a question mark, as no NFL team has cleared him to resume his career and he remains a free agent.
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy did speak about Finley during recent organized team activities (OTA’s) and, in essence, said that Finley is a free agent but that he sees him as a Packer and wishes him the best.Â The known entity that was Finley surely still intrigues the Packers, but I’m one of those in the camp that doubt his return to the team.Â Not this season or any, for that matter.
Under the assumption that Finley won’t be back, that leaves the Packers in the midst of their search for their next starting tight end.Â With Finley, the Packers had a piece to their offense that they could feature and build quite a bit of the scheme around.Â Behind Finley, that’s not so much the case.