GREEN BAY, Wis. — Jermichael Finley isn’t officially back in the NFL yet, but the free-agent tight end took a big step towards returning to the field.
Finley’s agent, Blake Baratz, told Pro Football Talk that the former Green Bay Packer received full medical clearance from Dr. Joseph Maroon. It was Maroon, the physician for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who performed neck fusion surgery (C3-C4 vertebrae) on Finley in November 2013.
However, it’s now up to Finley and Baratz to convince an NFL team to medically clear the 27-year-old and then sign him to a contract.
"Because it’s spine and neck, everyone’s going to be overly, overly cautious with going back on the field," Baratz said to Pro Football Talk. "It is going to be subjective. It might not be the opinion of 31 other team doctors.
"He’s going to start taking (free-agent) visits starting (Friday)."
One remaining issue, and it’s a big one, is whether teams will sign off on Finley taking a hit.
The Packers have continued to keep an eye on Finley’s medical status.
"My understanding is he’s in great shape and he’s doing everything he can," head coach Mike McCarthy said Thursday.
Finley even visited Green Bay this week, but according to Baratz, it was "more of a formality."
"He drove with his family back to Green Bay (because) he hadn’t seen (Packers team physician) Dr. (Pat) McKenzie in a while," Baratz added. "It wasn’t a big conspiracy to go in there and sign a contact; just a formality to see if he’s OK neurologically."
McCarthy said he did not see or speak with Finley during the visit. McCarthy also stated that he has not had any recent conversations with the team’s medical staff about Finley.
If Finley gets beyond the medical conversations with an interested team, there’s still the matter of money.
"I think if you asked him right now, his mindset is to come back and play," Baratz said. "But is a team offering him $8 million bucks or $800,000?"
Finley completed a two-year, $16 million contract at the end of the 2013 season. After his injury, he revealed that he has a $10 million insurance policy that could kick in if he never played football again.
"If he shuts it down permanently right now, he has a very sound argument to collect disability," Baratz said.
In the event that Finley’s career is over, he will have played six seasons (all with Green Bay) and made 223 receptions for 2,785 yards and 20 touchdowns.