GREEN BAY, Wis. — There was some sense of relief from Green Bay Packers coaches and players when they arrived at Lambeau Field on Monday and found out that tight end Jermichael Finley was moving around his hospital room.
Less than 24 hours earlier, Finley was motionless in the middle of the field and needed to be carted away on a stretcher after suffering a neck injury.
While any improvement from Finley was welcome news for the team, there are still several questions about his medical condition that could take a lot of time to answer.
“Jermichael Finley suffered a significant injury,” coach Mike McCarthy said Monday. “He spent the evening in the hospital. As far as the injury, the specifics of it, there’s a lot more studies that are going on, opinions to be heard. So, anything as far as a timeline would be premature to give, to really comment on that today. He’s up and performing daily activities, and he’s in good spirits.”
According to multiple reports, Finley has a bruised spinal cord.
McCarthy visited Finley in the hospital Sunday night, just hours after the Packers defeated the Cleveland Browns.
“Jermichael is very, very upbeat, very positive,” McCarthy said. “Always has a smile on his face, so, I mean, he’s focused on what’s most important. That’s his health and his family.”
Finley posted on his Twitter account Monday night that he was released from the intensive care unit.
“I have full feeling in my arms and legs,” Finley tweeted. “I was able to walk to and from the shower today, which was badly needed after yesterday’s victory!”
There seemed to be optimism already earlier in the day that this wasn’t a situation like the one that former Green Bay safety Nick Collins endured two years ago. A day after suffering a neck injury in Week 2 of the 2011 season, McCarthy announced that Collins was out for the season. And, as it has turned out, Collins never again played in the NFL.
Finley still has more information to discover about his injury before any decisions are made about him playing football again.
“This is something that needs to be seen by more than one doctor,” McCarthy said. “I think it’s important to always go through the process, do your due diligence. At the end of the day, we’re going to do what’s in the best interest of Jermichael Finley.”
Finley was injured after a 10-yard completion early in the fourth quarter when Browns safety Tashaun Gipson connected with what appeared to be shoulder-to-head contact. Though Gipson was penalized 15 yards for leading with his helmet, McCarthy had no issue with the hit.
“Looking at the hit last night before we left here, we looked at it in the training room, watched the TV copy, saw it again this morning in the coaches evaluation; I don’t know really what you can do, it just seemed like one of those situations where it kind of just went that way,” McCarthy said. “Obviously Jermichael is being tackled from behind, so his inability to protect himself.
“I didn’t think it was a dirty play. I thought it was two guys playing football, or three guys that were involved in the collision.”
Packers offensive coordinator Tom Clements was also fine with Gipson’s hit on Finley.
“It was an unfortunate result,” Clements said. “I think it was a clean play, it just so happened Jermichael had his head down and the guy hit him with his shoulder; just caught it in the wrong way. It’s unfortunate.”
Finley’s teammates were noticeably shaken up in the locker room after the game. Tight end Andrew Quarless said he cried, while wide receiver Jordy Nelson said it made him sick.
“No one wants to leave the field that way,” McCarthy said Monday. “I think that’s the common fear of anybody that’s ever played the game. So any time you see one of your players, or any player, it’s hard to watch, hard to look at, hard to see one of your guys on the field going through that examination and everything that occurs in that.”
With a timetable for Finley’s recovery still unknown, there is the football side that Green Bay now has to prepare for. The Packers have a relatively deep and talented group of tight ends, though none of them match Finley’s pass-catching abilities.
Quarless has 28 career receptions in three NFL seasons and has been getting the most playing time at the position this season aside from Finley. Ryan Taylor is currently working his way back from recent knee surgery, but he’s more of a blocker than a route runner.
Undrafted rookie Jake Stoneburner was just called up from the practice squad and has played three NFL offensive snaps.
Brandon Bostick made the team this season after being on the practice squad last year, but he’s only played 13 total snaps and has no catches. However, Bostick is the most similar to Finley out of Green Bay’s tight end group.
“They’re both big and athletic,” Clements said. “Jermichael is a little bigger and a little stronger right now, obviously has more experience than Brandon does. There are some similar qualities, but (Bostick) is a young guy still developing.”
Football will obviously continue as scheduled for the Packers this week, but the players are looking forward to seeing Finley back around the team in one way or another.
“Hopefully he can get back in here soon, not necessarily to come play, but just to get back and be back around the guys,” offensive lineman Josh Sitton said. “He’s fun to have around.”