INDIANAPOLIS — Though Jermichael Finley had the same area of his neck fused as former teammate Nick Collins, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy sounds optimistic Finley will be able to continue his career while Collins hasn’t.
In an interview with Press-Gazette Media at the NFL scouting combine Friday, McCarthy said the tight end’s prognosis for return to the NFL looks good. According to USA TODAY, Finley is scheduled to meet with his neurosurgeon March 7, four days before the start of free agency.
“I’m very optimistic Jermichael will be back (playing football), based on my understanding of his situation,” McCarthy said. “I haven’t been involved in a conversation where he’s been compared to Nick Collins. Trust me, Jermichael’s doing everything he can every single day, he loves to train. From my understanding, he’s doing very well. I’m hoping to get it worked out and get him back here.”
Finley last season had his neck fused between the C-3 and C-4 vertebrae, the same place Collins had his neck fused in 2011. The Packers’ medical staff didn’t clear Collins after his neck had healed, and Collins hasn’t played in the NFL since.
Some doctors are hesitant to clear players who have had fusions that high on their neck because the discs above them are more vulnerable to traumatic injury than if the fusion were lower in the neck. However, there could be other factors that affect a player’s chances to be cleared by a given doctor, such as whether there’s stenosis, or narrowing, in the spinal column.
Another question with Finley’s possible return to the Packers is that he’ll be a free agent in a few weeks. McCarthy strongly suggested that as long as nothing changes in Finley’s medical status when the team’s medical staff examines him before the start of free agency, the Packers will try to re-sign him.
It’s unclear what kind of contract Finley will command on the open market — whether he’ll have to sign a one-year “prove it” deal to show teams he’s healthy, or a lucrative longer-term deal based on his talent and past performance.
“I hope (he’ll play again),” McCarthy said. “I have no reason to think otherwise based on — it’s a little early. He’s always optimistic about it, and I’m an optimist. I definitely would love to have him back.”