There was no helmet or shoulder pads in Jermichael Finley’s locker at Lambeau Field on Monday.
And no Finley, either.
Finley was taken to a local hospital after sustaining what coach Mike McCarthy labeled a “significant” neck injury during the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game. McCarthy visited Finley on Sunday evening and said Finley was still hospitalized on Monday.
“I mean, Jermichael is very, very upbeat, very positive,” McCarthy said on Monday. “Always has a smile on his face, so I mean he's focused on what's most important. That's his health and his family.”
On Twitter on Monday night, Finley said he had been transferred out of the intensive care unit and was able to walk to and from the shower.
Finley’s short- and long-term future is very much in doubt, though at least the early signs are encouraging.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Finley sustained a bruised spinal cord.
“There's a lot more studies that are going on, opinions to be heard,” McCarthy said. “So, anything as far as a timeline would be premature to really comment on today. He's up and performing daily activities, and he's in good spirits.”
McCarthy said he the experts “didn’t have enough information” to determine whether Finley could return to action this season. He wasn’t sure how long Finley would remain hospitalized.
“This is something that needs to be seen by more than one doctor, so I think it's important to always go through the process, do your due diligence, and you know at the end of the day, we're going to do what's in the best interest of Jermichael Finley,” McCarthy said.
With 10:31 to play in the game and the Packers facing second-and-7, Rodgers threw a short pass to Finley. Cleveland safety Tashaun Gipson hit Finley immediately. Play was stopped for six minutes while Finley was checked and eventually taken off the field on a stretcher.
The Packers have dealt with no shortage of injuries over the past few seasons but seeing what happened to Finley was a challenge even to the team’s battle-hardened players.
“It was tough to watch, man,” guard Josh Sitton said on Monday. “Seeing him on the ground and seeing all the doctors around him, he really wasn’t talking or anything. That sucked, you know? I asked one of the guys, I was like, ‘Is he all right?’ And he was like, ‘I don’t know.’ It’s tough to watch. It’s tough to go continue a game after seeing something like that. But we all know what this game involves. It’s a big risk that we all take out on the field. It’s tough but you have to keep going.”
Sitton said center Evan Dietrich-Smith talked to the team in the huddle when play continued. The Packers controlled their motions and scored touchdowns on that possession and the next to complete a 31-13 win.
“No one wants to leave the field that way,” McCarthy said. “I think that's the common fear of anybody that's ever played the game. So, any time you see one of your players -- or any player -- it's hard to watch, hard to look at, hard to see one of your guys on the field, going through that examination and everything that occurs in that. But the team is obviously behind him. He's got a lot of support, a lot of love, so that part of it is not a concern.”
Added Sitton: “It’s tough. It makes you kinda sit back and think about what you’re doing for a minute, you know? Because like I say, you don’t know what is going on with him, you don’t know what the injury is. It freaks you out. It’s one of those things we know it’s just part of the game, and you’ve just got to keep on going.”
McCarthy said he reviewed the hit on video after the game and again on Monday but didn’t think it was malicious.
“I don't know really what you can do,” he said. “It just seemed like one of those situations where it kind of just went that way. I didn't think it was a dirty play. I thought it was two guys playing football.”
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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 email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.