I’d have to go back to count the number of times I’ve referred to Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley as “Sir-Drops-a-Lot” on this website. I scoffed when the Packers signed him to a two-year, $14 million deal before the 2012 season, and shook my head each time he made a bone-headed play.
But on Sunday, as Finley lay on the turf, his arms curled up strangely after taking a hit to the head and neck by Browns defensive back Tashaun Gipson, I experienced a strange feeling of panic. Forget the drops; Finley was clearly seriously hurt. I quickly remembered that his 5-year-old son, following a concussion Finley sustained earlier in the season, had pleaded with his father not to play football anymore. I remembered the description Finley gave of looking toward the Packers sideline after that first concussion, only to see his teammates without heads or legs.
That’s scary stuff. And now, he lay there helpless as Andrew Quarless tended to him and awaited Packers medical personnel. Quarless admitted later that he shed tears when he saw his teammate helpless on the field, and when Finley looked at Quarless and told him he couldn’t move.
“I ain’t going to lie, man; I ain’t cried in a long time, but I definitely shed a tear for him,” Quarless told ESPN.
Quarless wasn’t the only Packers player moved to tears; Jordy Nelson fought back tears at the post-game press conference, saying, “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.”
“It was tough, man, seeing that happen,” Packers guard Josh Sitton told ESPN. “Watching him laying on the ground for a little bit and then having to keep playing is tough. We know how dangerous this sport can be, but still, man, when something like that happens, it’s tough to keep playing and not think about it, but we did a good job of just, you know, we kept going and ended up scoring in the drive. But that’s definitely tough.”
Those of us who don’t have to make a living by going out onto a field every Sunday and risking our bodies and brains can’t fully understand the bond that forms on a football team. One can argue these giants are overpaid for playing a game, but when’s the last time you took a shot to the head like that from a 200-pound missile?
These guys have families — their spouses and children no doubt watch in anguish every Sunday. And it can’t make it any easier to watch the ridiculous number of serious injuries that have occurred so far this season.
It’s almost akin to the spouse of a police officer watching their loved one take to the streets every night; the key difference is there are no bullets involved in the NFL (and the police officers don’t get paid nearly as much for their risks).
Finley will soon be out of the hospital and has been diagnosed with a bruised spinal cord. He’ll seek further medical opinions, but the latest reports say he won’t need surgery, which is excellent news for all involved.
When will he get back on the field? Well, that’s where remembering what’s important comes in. At this point, that’s not a question that needs to be asked.
The team and Packers Nation have one focus now: Not whether Finley catches the ball, but whether he’s going to get well. So far, so good.
And if there’s a blessing in disguise in this difficult time, it’s that Finley’s son can rest easy for at least the next few weeks, with his beloved dad safely by his side.