Former Packers DL Jolly Receives Medical Clearance

Johnny Jolly

Jolly is one step closer to a potential return to the NFL

According to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the doctors of former Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Johnny Jolly have given him the medical clearance to resume his football career.

I’m not writing this because I think Jolly will be back with the Packers or even to suggest that the Packers look into evaluating and clearing him.  Jolly’s story last season carried with it a tale of redemption and hope.  While his performance was anything but stellar, he was a good addition to the team and proved worthy of a roster spot.

Jolly received encouragement from his doctors earlier this year when the surgery was performed and a portion of his hip bone was grafted to help fuse his spine.  At that time, all Jolly could do was wait and see how it healed and if doctors would be confident enough to allow him to play football again.

Today, at least part of that wait is over.  Jolly’s clearance by his doctors is the first step to his potential return to the NFL and a sign that the procedure was a success, at least from a medical standpoint.

However, before any team would sign Jolly, their doctors also have to medically clear him.  Being cleared by his own doctors is one thing.  Being cleared by a team doctor is another and especially if we’re talking about the conservative medical staff in Green Bay.

Packers fans are unfortunately all too familiar with the process a player goes through with a serious neck injury.  We have seen some good and great former Packers players not return to the game following a neck injury.  The same players who if healthy, would have multiple suitors for their services and at a healthy rate of pay.  Former safety Nick Collins being a prime example.

Former Packers tight end Jermichael Finley is also still waiting for a team to medically clear him so he can resume his professional career.  As much as these men offer as players, teams remain cautious about the potential risks associated with a return to this very physical sport following such a serious injury.

As far as the Packers are concerned, the meaning of this news about Jolly today is about nothing more than being happy for a former team member.  As I mentioned earlier, the Packers have seen way more than their fair share of neck injuries to past players and to hear about one that may heal enough to return to the gridiron is welcome news on its own merit.

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Jermichael Finley Receives Medical Clearance

Packers TE Jermichael Finley

Finley’s return to football took a step forward when he received his first medical clearance this week

Free agent and former Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley received some good news today.  He was medically cleared by the neurosurgeon, Dr. Joseph Maroon, who performed his neck fusion surgery last year.  The surgery was to the C3 and C4 vertebrae and such a procedure has ended many NFL careers before Finley.

If Finley truly wants to resume his NFL career, this is a step in the right direction.  It is also, however, a relatively small step.  Maroon’s clearance is one thing.  Finley still needs to be cleared by a team doctor before he can seriously think about a return to football.

Finley met with the Packers medical staff earlier this week.  No tests were done and Finley did not work out for the team.  This was more of an informal discussion and meeting.  The Packers have expressed interest in Finley’s return to the team if he is cleared and able to play.  Head coach Mike McCarthy recently stated that he sees Finley as a Green Bay Packer and would certainly welcome him back to the offense.

While that sounds great in theory, there are still hurdles to be cleared and decisions to be made by the Packers.  Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette tweeted the news about Finley’s clearance and made the point that this doesn’t mean a return to the Packers is imminent.

Finley’s agent, Blake Baratz, indicated that Finley has a meeting scheduled with a team later this week but would not reveal who, at the team’s request.  There is still interest in Finley among NFL circles.  The Packers have proven to take a more conservative approach when dealing with players returning from neck injury.  Perhaps another team may be willing to take the bigger gamble sooner.

Beyond the medical side of this equation is the potential contract that Finley would be looking for.  Just taking a stab here, but Finley has never been the type to question his ability.  Neck injury or not, he is likely going to see himself as the same player who started out last season for the Packers.  That also means he will be looking for a decent paycheck.  The Packers have some other areas of concern when it comes to their current cap space, which should be around $12 million after rookie contracts are finalized.  If the stars align and the two sides find themselves at the bargaining table, the Packers will have to decide what that paycheck should be in a green and gold uniform.