Collins' career hinges on March appointment

Collins' career hinges on March appointment

Published Jan. 20, 2012 2:10 p.m. ET

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Nick Collins will find out in March whether he is able to continue his NFL career or will be forced into early retirement.

The 28-year-old safety for the Green Bay Packers, who suffered a severe neck injury in Week 2 on an attempted tackle, had spinal fusion surgery in late September and missed the remainder of this season. Collins had been named to the Pro Bowl in each of the previous three seasons.

When Collins meets with his surgeon, Dr. Frank Cammisa, in New York during March, that will be it. No more questions. No gray area. Either he's in or he's out — for good.

"If the doctors want me to be out there and the good lord wants me to be out there, I'll be out there," Collins said this week. "What's best for me and my situation? I think that's why I just want to keep it cut and dry, no toss-ups, nothing like that. Once I get that information, that's how it's going to be."

Collins last met with his doctor in December, and everything sounded positive at the time.

"He looked over everything and told me everything looked well and right on schedule," Collins said. "No percentages (were given). They were just letting me know that I was on the right path, heading in the right direction.

"Everything looks good right now. I'm positive."

This seemed like a change in attitude from a few months ago when Collins was talking about wanting to become a coach. He was even helping the Packers during practices this season in an effort to begin building his off-field resume.

"It's been a great ride for me," Collins said in early November. "The success that I've had over these past years that I've been here, that's just gratifying enough."

But if Collins' perspective has changed, he said it would be reading into his comments too much to assume that his outlook is any different now than it was then.

"I've always been positive," Collins said this week. "I've always said I was going to have a chance to come back. At the same time, I also say that it's going to be a decision for me, the doctors, my family, before I make that decision to come back."

Collins has been out of a neck brace since late October. He is also pain-free and has been ever since the injury, with the exception of a few days following his surgery.

Despite going through a potentially career-threatening injury, Collins is still looking out for the best interests of the Packers.

"I want to be able to make my decision before the draft so this organization can make a decision on who they can bring in and who they want to draft," Collins said.

With Collins out, Charlie Peprah started for the remainder of this season, and the results were not good. Green Bay finished last in the NFL in passing yards allowed, and there were many plays in which opposing wide receivers got well beyond the deepest Packers secondary player. Throughout the season, coach Mike McCarthy and several defensive players talked about how miscommunication on defense had been an ongoing problem. It had been Collins' job to make the calls in the secondary.

"Especially in my situation, it's very tough," Collins said after the Packers lost at home in the playoffs to the New York Giants. "I wasn't out there physically to help my team to pursue greatness, and we fell short."

Though the Packers had more issues defensively than what Collins could cure by himself, his absence played a major role in Green Bay's significant drop-off after having the NFL's fifth-best pass defense on last year's Super Bowl-winning team.

In McCarthy's season-ending press conference, he addressed what it was like having to adjust defensively without Collins.

"Well, Nick Collins is a Pro Bowl player, so obviously you would classify him as an impact player," McCarthy said. "You definitely miss Nick's big-play ability, but I don't think that's a reason to say, 'Oh, OK, that's why we didn't play defense at the level we played last year.' That would not be accurate from my viewpoint.

"Nick's exam in March, a lot will be riding on that. He feels good. He's very optimistic and positive about his future, and so am I. We'll see what March brings."

While it's possible that Collins could be on the field next season, he still has his concerns about what playing again could mean for his post-football future.

"At the end of the day, I have to do what's right for my family and my kids," Collins said. "I want to be there for them once they leave to go off to college. I want to be there supporting them."

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