MINNEAPOLIS — Green Bay's victory in Super Bowl XLV was bittersweet for Packers tight end Jermichael Finley.
During the first four weeks of the season, Finley was a big part of Green Bay's offense. He had 21 catches for 301 yards and a touchdown, but a knee injury in Week 5 sidelined him for the rest of the season, including the Packers' Super Bowl win.
"Being out Week 5 and them winning the Super Bowl and you not being a part of it, you're like, 'Man. What did I do wrong?'" said Finley, who tore the meniscus in his right knee in Green Bay's game against Washington. "It's one of those things where you've got to learn from it and grow."
That's exactly what the three-year veteran has done. Finley, who had racked up 300 receiving yards in the team's first four games and was on pace for 1,200, worked out Friday in Minneapolis at the University of Minnesota with Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and other NFL players in an offseason training program. Coming off the knee injury, Finley said he's in great shape and ready to hit the field again — as soon as the NFL lockout ends, of course.
"They're not clearing me. I'm clearing myself," Finley said, when asked if he'd been cleared. "I'm getting out there and playing this year, without a doubt."
Forced to watch much of the Packers' season from the sideline, Finley said he learned a lot about the tight end position. He also said his appreciation for the game grew significantly once it was taken away from him.
"I saw the game from a different standpoint. It made me learn the defenses. It made me learn how to detail my routes and everything. Seeing the game from a different standpoint, I got more knowledge," he said. "Every step counts. Every ball that gets thrown to me in practice counts right now. I think it was a blessing, to tell you the truth."
Finley also thinks the lockout has been a blessing in disguise for him, as it has allowed him to give his knee more time to heal.
"It's a great thing that the lockout went so long. At the same time — come on, man, let's get something done," Finley said. "For people that were injured like me, it's a good thing: . . . more time to get under my feet and come back and let them see what you can do right now."
Finley, who caught 55 passes for 676 yards and five touchdowns in 2009, has taken his offseason workouts seriously, even moving to Minneapolis to be near Dr. Josh Sandell while also taking part in the intense workouts with Fitzgerald and Co. Now, he's determined to show the Packers he's back to full strength.
"I can come back and the first thing they're going to see is me sprinting. I guarantee right now Green Bay doesn't think I'm ready," Finley said. "This offseason's been the best offseason I've had."
While Finley is convinced his knee is good to go, part of him still looks back on Green Bay's championship with the wish that he could have contributed to the franchise's fourth Super Bowl title.
"I was walking through the locker room and I saw the guys just stoked and happy. I was happy, but at the same time I was like, 'Shoot, I didn't do nothing. I didn't play,'" Finley said. "I guarantee I'm going to get back this year."
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