To understand just what relative good news the Green Bay Packers had on tight end Jermichael Finley on Monday, all you had to do was rewind to another Monday two years earlier, and contrast the feeling in the room.
On that September Monday, coach Mike McCarthy walked into the very same Lambeau Field auditorium and somberly announced that Nick Collins’ season was over. The Packers three-time Pro Bowl safety had left the Bank of America Stadium field on a backboard and spent the night in a Charlotte hospital after suffering a frightening neck injury 24 hours earlier in the second game of the season against the Carolina Panthers.
And while Collins’ long-term prognosis was still unclear at the time – as it turned out, he never played again – there was no question that Collins would miss the rest of the season.
“I have some bad news to report on the injury front,” McCarthy said that day, breaking from tradition by not immediately opening the press conference up to questions. He then delivered the news.
“So,” McCarthy paused, sighing. “It’s tough. We’ve been through the injury stuff before, but it’s something you never get used to as a head coach.”
The mood was quite different Monday, when McCarthy again entered the press room and immediately made an announcement. And while he wasn’t in any way downplaying the injury -- McCarthy used the word “significant” – there wasn’t the same ominous vibe in the room.
“As far as the injury, the specifics of it, there's a lot more studies that are going on, opinions to be heard. So anything as far as a timeline would be premature to give,” McCarthy said of Finley’s injury. “(But) he's up and performing daily activities, and he's in good spirits.”
McCarthy said he visited Finley, who spent the night in an intensive care unit of a local hospital and was still there as of Monday afternoon, on Sunday night.
“Jermichael is very, very upbeat, very positive. Always has a smile on his face,” McCarthy said, adding that he didn’t know when Finley might be discharged. “He's focused on what's most important. That's his health and his family.”
Finley was injured with 10 minutes 28 seconds remaining in the Packers’ 31-13 victory over the Browns. After catching a 10-yard pass from quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Finley took roughly three steps and collided with Browns safety Tashaun Gipson, whose shoulder connected with Finley’s head and send him to the turf.
Finley was down for roughly 6 minutes while team physicians Dr. Patrick McKenzie and Dr. John Gray tended to him, then left the field on a gurney and went straight to an ambulance parked up the tunnel. He’d caught five passes for 72 yards and a touchdown in the game.
“It’s very unfortunate. Jermichael was playing very well. He was having a great game,” offensive coordinator Tom Clements said. “He just got caught in the wrong position and it was an unfortunate result.”
Whether that unfortunate result turns out to be as serious Collins’ remains unclear. McCarthy was reluctant to say it was encouraging that, unlike with Collins, the doctors weren’t telling him Finley’s season was over.
“We do not have enough information. This is something that needs to be seen by more than one doctor,” McCarthy said. “I think it's important to always go through the process, do your due diligence. At the end of the day, we're going to do what's in the best interest of Jermichael Finley.”
While many of Finley’s teammates became emotional after seeing the play and then when talking about it after the game, McCarthy said he and the coaches looked at the film of the play and didn’t take issue with anything that Gipson did. McCarthy first saw the replay while in the training room, then saw it again Monday morning in the coaches’ meeting.
“I don't know really what you can do. It just seemed like one of those situations where it kind of just went that way,” McCarthy asid. “I didn't think it was a dirty play. I thought it was two guys playing football, or three guys that were involved in the collision. I don't know what else any of the players could’ve done differently.”
Finley’s injury is the latest in a run of injuries to key players. The Packers played Sunday without four-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Clay Matthews (broken thumb); wide receiver Randall Cobb (broken leg), who had been their leading receiver at the time of his injury; wide receiver James Jones (knee); outside linebacker Nick Perry (foot); and inside linebacker Brad Jones (hamstring).
McCarthy suggested that James Jones and injured backup tight end Ryan Taylor (knee) could push to play next Sunday night at Minnesota, but the Packers still could be shorthanded going into that game. The 46th active player on their game-day roster on Sunday, special teams ace Jarrett Bush, did not play a snap against the Browns because of a hamstring injury and instead rode a stationary bike with sweatpants over his uniform pants all afternoon.
“We're going to have 46 guys line up against the Minnesota Vikings, and we're going to the Metrodome to win,” McCarthy said. “So, everything that happens between now and that moment is part of our focus, is part of our commitment. That will never change. Jermichael's injury situation is no different than the other ones, the other players that have gone down so far this year. It's personal, but there is a team goal, and that won't stop.”
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today” on 540 ESPN, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.