Upon seeing Jermichael Finley lying on the Lambeau Field turf, Andrew Quarless flashed back to 2011.
“It was definitely tough to see,” Quarless, one of the Green Bay Packers’ backup tight ends, said after Sunday’s victory over Cleveland. “He was moving his head. I think he was trying to see what could move. I don’t know. I don’t know. I just think back to stuff like Nick Collins’ injury. You don’t want to see a guy on the ground, not moving. It’s tough. It’s tough.”
Collins’ career ended with a neck injury at Carolina in 2011. Finley might be just fine – he was at local hospital for testing – but he was taken off the field on a stretcher after being hit by Cleveland safety Tashaun Gipson. Finley’s short-term future, at the least, is in doubt in light of the Week 3 concussion he sustained at Cincinnati.
After the game, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said it would be “premature” to say anything about Finley.
Finley’s agent, Blake Baratz, said on Twitter, “Keep him in your thoughts & be patient. Football doesn’t matter right now.”
With 10:31 to play in the game and the Packers facing second-and-7, Rodgers threw a short pass to Finley. Gipson hit Finley immediately. Play was stopped for six minutes while Finley was checked and eventually taken off the field.
“You know, it’s scary for me seeing him just lay there,” Gipson said. “You definitely never want to see something like that happen. I shot a prayer up for him and if I can reach out after the game I’m going to try get in contact with him and let him know my condolences go out to him.”
It wasn’t a malicious hit, though Gipson was flagged for unnecessary roughness after his shoulder struck Finley in the helmet and bent Finley’s neck.
“All shoulder,” Gipson said. “The crown of my head did not go down whatsoever. It was a shoulder hit. I don’t know the place where it hit him exactly. I just know I saw him break out of the middle. He was running a slant. I’m driving on the ball. There’s a collision and he’s down. I really haven’t watched the play so I can’t really tell you what happened. I was just going out there playing physical.”
Emotions were running high in the locker room. Receiver Jordy Nelson appeared to get emotional when asked about Finley.
Gipson, left, closes in on Finley. Benny Sieu/USA Today Sports
“Thoughts and prayers are with Jermichael,” Nelson said. “That’s honestly the first time it really got me. I didn’t like what I saw. Hopefully he’ll be all right. He needs to take his time; obviously it’s his second one already his year and he needs to take care of himself first.”
Added cornerback Tramon Williams: “You’re seeing him not moving and your heart dropped because you know the guy personally, you know the type of guy that he is. His family and everyone has to sit there and watch that, and you don’t know what’s going through their heads. I pray that he’s going to be all right and be able to come back out with us.”
Finley caught five passes for 72 yards and one touchdown, taking on a bigger role on an offense without receivers Randall Cobb (broken fibula) and James Jones (knee).
“There’s not a whole lot to be said,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “Actually, Evan (Dietrich-Smith, the center) spoke up after that and said a few words. But it’s a reminder how tough this game is. We put our bodies on the line, our future health on the line and, obviously, with Jermichael, he was playing really well. He’s a great friend, great teammate. He’s had a very good year for us. Injuries are a part of the game. But those are tough to see. Not being able to walk off the field, I know, in the back of our minds, is kind of our worst nightmare.”
The Packers carried on and put the game away. Three plays after the injury, Rodgers threw a touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson to make it 24-6. On the next possession, Rodgers and Jarrett Boykin connected for another touchdown to extend the margin to 31-13.
“It makes you sick,” Nelson said. “Just seeing a guy lay there, you start thinking a little bit.”
Added guard T.J. Lang: “It’s tough. That’s the second time this year I’ve been on the field when that happened to him. It’s kind of nauseating. It’s hard to bounce back from when that happens. But hopefully he’s all right. It’s tough. I think there was still 9 or 10 minutes left in the game, and we still had to go out there and play, which was tough after that. Anytime you see one of your teammates go down, it’s not easy to deal with.”
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.