GREEN BAY, Wis. — Jermichael Finley speaks his mind. He wants to be an elite player in the NFL and doesn’t hide that desire, even though some fans prefer he’d keep it to himself.
Finley’s outspoken nature is what makes Green Bay’s talented tight end captivating on and off the field and secures his spot each season as one of the most divisive players among Packers fans.
With a new two-year, $15 million contract in hand, Finley, entering his fifth year in the NFL at age 25, is on a mission to be recognized as one of the league’s top players.
“I had a breakout year before (in 2009), but an elite breakout year where I take it to a whole other level, that’s what I want,” Finley told FOXSportsWisconsin.com this week. “But at the end of the day, I want that ring, though. That’s the ultimate goal.
“Around here, we plan on winning multiple rings.”
When Green Bay won the Super Bowl in 2010, Finley wasn’t a part of the team’s playoff run. He hadn’t played since Week 5 after suffering a season-ending knee injury.
“When you’ve got three or four rings, you ain’t gonna look back at just that one,” Finley said. “So my plan is to win as many rings as possible. If you want to be great, greatness comes in the rings. I think we can win. We are young and coming into our own right now.
“It can be a dream come true.”
In order to play a significant role in accomplishing team success, Finley wants to become a more prominent part of the Packers’ offense. During minicamp, he talked about lacking chemistry last season with quarterback — and league MVP — Aaron Rodgers.
However, since the start of training camp, Finley believes that chemistry with Rodgers is “getting a lot better.” Now, Finley hopes an improved bond with his QB turns into more passes heading his way during the season.
If that’s the case, Finley doesn’t think it will take long until he’s mentioned in the same sentence as elite tight ends such as New England’s Rob Gronkowski and New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham.
“With my ability and what I think I can do, I’d say (statistically finishing in the) top two, that’s my goal,” Finley said. “Those guys (Gronkowski and Graham) did have that one hit this year when they were rolling and hot, and they had the chemistry going and their quarterback’s trust.
“(Tom Brady and Drew Brees) threw them the ball 20 times a game. You get the ball 20 times and you catch 10 of them, you should be doing something.”
In 2011, Graham had 56 more targets than Finley, and Gronkowski had 31 more. In fact, there were 10 NFL tight ends who had more passes thrown their way in 2011 than Finley.
But with Green Bay loaded at wide receiver, no Packers player finished in the league’s top 40 in total targets. Greg Jennings led the team with 101, ranking him 42nd overall. Jordy Nelson had 96 targets and Finley was close behind at 93.
Finley has not yet talked with Rodgers this year about wanting the ball more but said he won’t hesitate to do so if he believes it’s justified.
“It’s not tough at all,” Finley said of discussing that topic with his quarterback. “If we’re missing balls, he’s going to come to us and tell us to catch the ball. So if we’re not getting the ball and we think we should, you don’t go up to him and get hyped up, get in his face or get violent with him, but just pull him to the side and say, ‘What can I do to get in your vision or to get the ball a little bit more?’ “
Finley often referenced back to the 2009 season when he caught 55 passes as a 22-year-old second-year player. Though he actually had more yards and touchdowns and the same number of receptions last season as he did that year, he still looks at 2009 as the time when he and Rodgers were hitting their stride together as a duo.
“What I see right now, I see ’09 all over again,” Finley said. “I was used to catching Rodgers’ balls, looking away from it and still seeing what I got in front of me. That all comes in chemistry and time together.
“I see a big year (coming).”
Considering the Packers were already the NFL’s highest-scoring team, if Finley has the elite breakout year he’s hoping for, his goal of winning multiple Super Bowl rings may not be far behind.