Perhaps the news that Jermichael Finley has been medically cleared is a clear vision of great things to come.
But the moment I heard the news, I merely shrugged my shoulders.
It’s great that Finley, an athletic marvel at the tight end position, was able to get his C3 and C4 vertebrates fused. I was one of the guys that thought he would never play again.
But now that he’s cleared, his future is not in Green Bay. First of all, I am not sure what kind of coin his agent Blake Baratz is going to command. But remember, Finley is coming off his two-year $14-million prove-it deal and especially after a bruised spinal cord, the 27-year-old will be looking for some security.
The Packers most definitely have a need at tight end. Andrew Quarless and Brandon Bostick haven’t been able to prove their worth consistently. Green Bay even rolled the dice with troubled Oregon star Colt Lyerla, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle.
Secondly, before the injury, the Packers brass may have been pondering if it was worth it to keep Finley around. Finley was able to bring many double-teams to the middle of the field which gave guys like Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and James Jones one-on-one battles which they often won. However, when Finley was called upon to come up with a drive-extending grab on third down or a critical goal line catch, his hands frequently betrayed him.
But that’s not even the worst. His blocking skills were always something of a head scratcher. He was clearly motivated to run routes, catch passes and score touchdowns. He isn’t exactly wired to be a hard-charging blocker when the offense needs to salt the game away. And that’s why the Packers have kept four tight ends, an unheard of number, since 2010. Someone else must pick up the little things that he cannot or refuses to do.
Finally, just because the doctor that performed the procedure has medically cleared Finley doesn’t mean that team doctors won’t have questions and raise red flags. Finley still has to prove that he is not only capable of playing at his pre-injury level but he also must prove that he has the strong psyche to understand that teams, like it or not, will now be targeting his neck.
But Finley also has to decide for himself what is important. That inner-drive as an athlete to continue playing regardless of the risks or shutting it down to preserve a healthy future with his family. He stands to collect on his $10 million insurance policy if he decides to never put on an NFL helmet again. Obviously that all changes the moment he decides to play again, causing that insurance money to evaporate.
Win-now teams like Seattle and New England are more apt to kick the tires on Finley because if they can get him to sign a low year, incentive-laden deal, it would be great if he returns to his old self. Those teams already have pieces in place to help him but if Finley cannot find his old dynamic self, they will not be risking a large portion of their future.
Have we seen the best of Finley? Maybe, maybe not. But Finley won’t have the opportunity to continue to blossom under the tutelage of Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy. There are too many question marks filled with not enough answers, and then there’s his Jekyll and Mr. Hyde persona on the football field that eventually wore out his welcome.
In a delicate injury situation like this, you hate to bring on-field performance into the equation, but all the miscommunication, dropped balls and missed blocks cannot be ignored.——————
Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn