Finley: Return to field not question of if, but when
Moments after Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley got hit near his neck and realized he couldn't move while down in the middle of Lambeau Field, his first thoughts were: "Is this God punishing me? "Is this Karma?"
Finley opened up for the first time since his injury in a post that he authored for the MMQB site. Here are a few of the highlights:
On what happened following the collision with Browns safety Tashaun Gipson: "I was very conscious, but I could not move. I looked my teammate Andrew Quarless directly in the eye and whispered, "Help me, Q. I can't move; I can't breathe." The scariest moment was seeing the fear in Q's eyes. I knew something was wrong, but his reaction verified it. That really shook me up."
On the way he felt while lying still on the ground: "But because I was a little panicked, I couldn't breathe, which made it very difficult to answer (the doctors and trainers). I remember one of the doctors telling me to "close my legs," and I simply could not. They ended up unscrewing my facemask before lifting me up on the stretcher. When I was exiting the field at Lambeau, I tried to raise my hand to give the fans a thumbs-up, but I got about halfway and couldn't raise my arm any further. I kept asking the neurosurgeon, "Will I walk again?" His answer was a definitive, "Yes, you are moving your legs right now." Then I asked, "Will I use my arms again? Will I play football again?" To those questions, I simply got, "I cannot answer that yet."
On the uncertainty in those moments: "The scariest part of the entire scenario was the unknown. I was having trouble breathing and speaking. I couldn't move. I was taking all sorts of tests, and no one could give me any answers. There was some concern initially that I might need an immediate spinal cord surgery. The initial CT scan came back negative Sunday night, which meant no fracture in my neck. That was obviously tremendous news, and a major blessing for my family and me."
On the injury diagnosis: "I underwent a series of exams (CT scan, MRI, X-Ray, etc.) to determine the extent of the injury. Monday afternoon, our team doctors and my agent sent out copies to a half-dozen spine experts around the country. It may have looked like I had another concussion, after suffering one in Cincinnati last month, but it turns out the injury is what doctors have called a spinal cord contusion. The blow shocked my spine, and left me with a two-centimeter bruise on my spinal cord that should heal in time."
On recovery: "My medical treatment to this point has been superb, and the Packers and my agent have been working together to determine how outside medical experts view this injury, how previous cases have been handled and what the next steps of action should be. Right now, the recovery timeline is still uncertain, so we don't know yet if this injury will end my season. Obviously the most important thing for me right now is to rest, and to let the contusion heal. After that, I will most likely go visit a handful of specialists around the country for thorough second and third evaluations of my neck and head. One thing that I know is that I am in great hands. I have a tremendous support system and this incident only made that clearer. I am blessed."
On the financial ramifications of the injury: "My agent and financial advisers have always preached the importance of disability insurance to me. As athletes, we often feel invincible, which is why it is so important to have advisers who you can trust and who can also take the emotion out of any situation. I don't feel the pressure that I see many athletes do because I've taken their advice. I currently have a $10 million insurance policy in place. If this injury prevents me from ever playing football again, I will be able to collect on $10 million tax-free. For me, this is the equivalent of making another $16 million or $17 million in pre-tax salary. While money has absolutely nothing to do with my decision to play, I can sleep at night knowing that regardless of what happens, my family is financially secure forever—maybe the biggest odds I'll ever overcome. Disability insurance is never a fun conversation, and writing those annual checks to protect myself is tough. But now, more than ever, I understand the importance of protecting yourself, protecting your family, and protecting your future earnings."
On his future in the NFL: "Of course I plan to play football again. This is what I love to do. I love the game. I love Sundays. Based on the feedback I've received from doctors at this point, the question is not if I'll play again, but when. There is no better feeling in the world than making the "Lambeau Leap" into the stands, and I fully intend on having that surreal feeling again soon. I will do everything in my power to rehab and get back to the player I have been, and improve into the player I know I can be."
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