GREEN BAY – Jermichael Finley is officially on the road to recovery. Whether that road leads him to playing football again – for the Green Bay Packers or someone else – won’t be answered for months.
Andrea Kramer of the NFL Network and HBO Real Sports reported Friday afternoon that Finley had undergone successful spinal fusion surgery Thursday in Pittsburgh by neurosurgeon Dr. Joseph Maroon, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ team neurosurgeon. Kremer reported that Finley up and around and walking Friday and that he planned to return to Green Bay. Finley is hoping to start light workouts in few weeks and is expecting a recovery of three to four months.
That would seem to be an ambitious timeline given the significance of the surgery. Finley is believed to have had the C3 and C4 vertebrae fused, the same two vertebrae that three-time Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins had done in 2011.
“I’m looking forward to hearing from Jermichael, seeing him. My understanding is, through our medical staff, that it was a successful surgery,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Friday. “I have not seen Jermichael yet.”
Asked if the decision to use the Steelers’ team neurosurgeon was the Packers’ idea or how it came about, it was hard to tell by McCarthy’s answer whether the Packers had wanted Finley to have the surgery or had been involved in the selection of the doctor.
“Every individual has control over their own body. So as far as what surgeon does the surgery, it’s obviously a group effort,” McCarthy said. “You always want the patient, the individual, to be comfortable and confident. Our medical staff was in touch throughout the process, and the decision was made, and obviously we respect it. Dr. Pat McKenzie and our group have an excellent relationship with the Pittsburgh medical group.”
Finley’s agent, Blake Baratz, had made it clear in a statement he released Wednesday that his client plans to resume his football career. The 26-year-old Finley is set to become an unrestricted free agent in March, when his two-year, $14 million deal expires. A third-round pick in 2008 out of Texas, Finley has caught 223 career passes for 2,785 yards and 20 touchdowns in six seasons in Green Bay, setting the franchise record for receptions by a tight end with 61 last season.
Finley had 25 receptions for 300 yards and three touchdowns this season before suffering a bruised spinal cord on a hit against the Cleveland Browns on Oct. 20.
Tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot acknowledged this week that there’s no guarantee that Finley will play again.
“No, there’s not, and we’re saying our prayers for Jermichael and offering our support in any way that we can and hopefully everything will work out for the best,” Fontenot said. “I said this right after the injury, sometimes you have to go through trials and tribulations and some good will come out of it on the other side. And that’s what we’re hoping for in his case. He’s been a great player for us and hopefully that’ll continue.”
While Finley still had room to improve his game, Fontenot said that after the catch, Finley had been phenomenal this season.
“I would say that the things he was doing once he got his hands on the ball were as good as I’d ever seen him do,” Fontenot said. “He looked like he was playing with a great amount of confidence – not overly confident, but a great amount of confidence. He was in a good spot before this injury.
“Hopefully that will carry him through this trial as well. He shouldn’t lose any confidence on the other side of it. Like I said, we don’t know what’s going to come on the other side of it, but whatever happens, hopefully things will work out for the best for Jermichael.”
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