In Appreciation of Jermichael Finley

Jermichael Finley Packers

Since being drafted by the Packers in 2008, Jermichael Finley has been one of the most divisive players on the Packers roster.  Finley has shown flashes of potential greatness, but he has never been able to put together a full season that would put him in the upper echelon of NFL tight ends.

After playing only 88 snaps his rookie year, Finley had a solid, but unspectacular season in 2009, during which he split playing time with Donald Lee.  But during the Packers wild card round match up against the Cardinals, Finley displayed the talent that the Packers were hoping for when they drafted him in the 3rd round out of Texas, catching 6 passes for 159 yards.

After his breakout playoff game, the Packers made Finley the centerpiece of their offense for the 2010 season, but unfortunately for the Packers and Finley, he suffered a season ending knee injury the fifth game of the season.

Finley remained healthy in 2011 and 2012, but put up just average numbers, 10 touchdowns, 82 receptions and 1,434 yards between the 2 seasons, to go along with a woeful 23 drops.

Before the 2013 season there was speculation that the Packers would be cutting Finley rather than pay him the $8 million plus he would be owed, but the Packers stuck with Finley, and it looked like he would reward them for their patience. Finley had 25 receptions, 300 yards, and 3 touchdowns through 6 games. But it wasn’t just the numbers. Finley wasn’t having the drop issues he had in previous years, he looked more explosive in his route running, and he was breaking tackles to gain extra yards after the catch.  Finley appeared to be heading for a big pay day in free agency at the end of the season.

But again misfortune struck Finley and the Packers. During the Packers week 7 game against the Browns, Finley suffered a severe spinal cord injury, an injury that he is still recovering from.

During his 6 years as a Packer, fans have been critical of Finley for a number of reasons, some well deserved some not as much.  Finley has never quite lived up to the hype that surrounded him, and problems with both injuries and drops have plagued him. He can come off as a bit of a diva, which is far from uncommon with receivers and tight ends in the NFL, but is an anomaly among recent Packer receivers. But even the most vocal detractors would have to admit that the skill set that Finley brings to the Packers will be tough to replace.

No matter what your opinion on Finley is, it’s hard not to be impressed by his dedication to the game.  After his latest injury it was revealed that Finley had an insurance policy that would pay out $10 million tax free if he was no longer able to play. But instead of taking the easy way out and cashing in on his insurance policy, Finley seems to be dedicating himself to getting back on the football field despite the potential risks.

What the future holds for Finley is unclear. He has had a meeting with the Seahawks, and the Packers have said they would like to have him back, but he has yet to be medically cleared. But whether he plays again for the Packers, another team, or never plays in the NFL again, it’s hard not to be impressed by Finley’s desire to play again and his dedication to the game.

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Ian Hanley is a writer at PackersTalk.com. PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on twitter at @Ian_M_Hanley.

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