GREEN BAY, Wis. — It may not seem like it from outside the Packers’ locker room, but quarterback Aaron Rodgers insists that his relationship with outspoken tight end Jermichael Finley is actually quite strong at the moment.
Finley has commented numerous times over the past year that there can sometimes be a lack of chemistry between he and the NFL’s reigning Most Valuable Player. Recently, however, Rodgers and Finley have been spending Saturday nights together going over details of the next day’s game.
“I think (our relationship) is really good right now, no B.S.,” Rodgers said Wednesday following his weekly interview with local media. “We’ve been spending time together Saturday nights, and I think his attitude in here has been great. Obviously it helped his confidence to have a couple big plays on Sunday (against the Detroit Lions).
“It’s frustrating, I think, as a player and teammate and friend to feel like you’re making strides and then to have an article come out that’s, whatever was the questions asked, or whatever the direction was that it went, it didn’t come off the way that it feels. Because we’re doing great together. Him and I are good, that’s what he tells me, so I’m going to take his word for it.”
Last week — the interview wasn’t published until this week — Finley told the Journal Sentinel of his relationship with Rodgers: “Both of us need to just go out, maybe have a drink or two and just spill everything. It sounds easy, but it’s not. He’s throwing it to who he’s comfortable with.”
When Finley approached his locker Wednesday, he refused to speak to any reporters.
Several aspects of Finley’s statistical output are down this season. Through 10 games, he has 32 receptions for 337 yards and two touchdowns. At that rate, he’ll finish the season with 51 catches, 539 yards and three touchdowns. In 2011, after returning from a season-ending knee injury he sustained a year earlier, Finley had 55 receptions for 767 yards and eight touchdowns.
“I’ve said something to that chord there in the past, how it’s just Jermichael,” Rodgers said. “I honestly firmly believe that not only are him and I great, but he’s really been making a conscious effort in the locker room to be the kind of teammate that he wants to be.
“Regardless of what was written in any article, I think he’s happy for his teammates, I think he’s happy for my success, and I want him to be successful, and him and I are doing really well. I don’t put a lot of weight into that article. I know the comments were from last week, but him and I are doing well, and I think he’s doing a really good job in the locker room as a teammate, as well.”
Finley’s comments were made on Nov. 15, three days before he had his best game of the season with three catches for 66 yards and one touchdown in a win over the Detroit Lions.
Even that level of production, though, hasn’t changed Finley’s overall spot in the Packers’ pecking order among receivers. Second-year wideout Randall Cobb leads Green Bay in targets (71) and receptions (54), with Jordy Nelson — who’s missed nearly two full games due to injuries — leading the group in receiving yards (577). James Jones is tops on the team with eight touchdown catches.
Two-time Pro Bowl receiver Greg Jennings has played only three games this season due to groin and abdominal injuries, but even his absence hasn’t elevated Finley past fourth in any of the major receiving categories.
“I think Cobb’s taken my position from ’09,” Finley told the Journal Sentinel. “I want to line up where Cobb’s lining up because I know the ball’s coming there.
“But me and ‘12′ (Rodgers) just ain’t been on. He’s had some guys come through this year, and he’s gone to them instead of me. And really, it’s out of my hands, at the end of the day. If I could throw myself the ball and run under it, I’d do it every play because he’s just not throwing me the ball like he used to.”
Finley also — accurately, based on the numbers — sees himself as Rodgers’ fourth option this season.
“I don’t really want to put a number on it, but I’d say fourth, if I had to,” Finley told the Journal sentinel. “I’m pretty disappointed in it. I’m pretty disappointed in the numbers side of it, but I ain’t had the opportunities either.
“Everybody knows what I can do, but it’s just out of my hands. It’s awfully hard to explain. It really is. I’m just in that organization and that scheme where I’m out of it right now.”
Finley, 25, signed a two-year contract extension with the Packers last offseason. It remains to be seen whether general manager Ted Thompson will decide to retain him for $8 million next season. With Jennings set to be a free agent this offseason and veteran Donald Driver in his 14th and perhaps final NFL season, Finley didn’t sound overly confident that Green Bay’s offense could succeed without all three of them.
“Just picture that, ‘85′ (Jennings) and ‘88′ (Finley) gone and ‘80′ (Driver),” Finley told the Journal Sentinel. “If that happens, you tell me. That’s a lot of playmakers. End of the day, I’m saying good luck.”