Nick Collins celebrates an interception touchdown return. Raymond T. Rivard photograph

Green Bay Packers continue recovery post-Nick Collins

Sept. 18, 2011, was a day when the Green Bay Packers were drastically changed.

Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins lay on the turf at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., after helping to make a tackle and having his head freakishly snapped back.

He would never play another football game and the Packers would never be the same on the field.

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, while talking about his defense today, brought up Collins to Jason Wilde of ESPN Radio, who documented his response. McCarthy, who has a great understanding of his players and their roles on his team said,

Nick Collins was the heart and soul of the Packers defense.
Raymond T. Rivard photograph

“Nick’s a great player. That’s one (where), I don’t think Ted will ever get over that one. That’s one we talk about quite often, but hey, you have to move on. You’re talking about a guy that was probably in the middle of a Hall of Fame career.”

Was McCarthy right about the Hall of Fame? Well, Collins had just helped his team to a Super Bowl and had been named to three straight Pro Bowls. He had just finished his sixth season, had 21 interceptions, four of which had been returned for touchdowns. He had 329 tackles and 75 assists. He forced six fumbles and recovered four others. He also had an interception that he returned for a touchdown in Super Bowl XLV.

So, had he been able to continue to play 10-12-14 season, sure, he could have been considered a hall of famer. He easily would have been considered for induction into the Packers Hall of Fame.

But that’s speculation. Collins’ loss two seasons ago certainly had an impact. In 2011, the season when the Packers lost Collins, the team’s defense went to hell. In fact, it got as bad as it could have gotten as the team’s unit finished dead last in the the league without Collins. They still haven’t recovered. Though the unit improved in 2012 because Ted Thompson went out and expended an entire draft to make it so, but it still has some work to do to get back to performing like it did with Collins in the lineup.

The team continues its recovery from its post-Collins hangover.

” I really like Morgan Burnett,” McCarthy said as he talked about the team he now has on the field. “I feel like he’s going to take a big step this year. I look for his leadership to improve. Morgan does everything that you ask, he’s got to start cashing in on the opportunities he has around the ball. I thought he did an excellent job when Charles [Woodson] went down with his injury playing down around the line of scrimmage. I thought Morgan was extremely disciplined and productive down there. I feel very good about Morgan back there, and I like our young guys.”

McCarthy has to say those things because those are the players he has in-house. Those are the players who remain post-Collins. This is a team still in recovery – a team that has to develop its own identity and make its own history.

Hopefully the recovery continues … and of course we are thankful for what Collins brought to the team while he played and we hope for his continued recovery to life after football.

Here are Collins’ career statistics …


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