Trent Stutzman

Jermichael Finley's 2013 Season Should Be Over

Created on Oct. 22, 2013 5:01 PM EST

As Green Bay Packers TE Jermichael Finley lay motionless on the ground after receiving a blow from Cleveland S Tashaun Gipson Sunday, many thoughts and feelings instantly flooded my brain. “Shouldn’t that hit be a penalty?” “Why do the Packers seem to be a recurring victim to head hunters?” “Crap, Finley’s gonna be missing some time too now. The Packers just can’t catch a break with injuries.” “I’m going to have to pick up a new tight end in my fantasy league.”And then, finally, “I really hope Finley is OK,” as in for the person, not the football player (as it turns out, those first two assumptions were inaccurate; Gipson’s hit was perfectly legal).

Such is the thought process of fans and members of the media, and all too easily at that. In our world of fantasy football, obsession with statistics and desire for our team to be successful over everything else, we forget way too often that these people whom we enjoy so much watching and rooting for are exactly that – people. They’re not simulations on Madden, they’re not point-collectors for our fantasy football teams and they’re not robots performing their duties for the sole purpose of entertaining us.

They’re fellow human beings, with parents, children, siblings and spouses. They’ve got to look out for not just their own well-being, but for that of their family.

This point was really driven home Monday when I was reminded of Finley’s first 2013 injury. After being concussed and leaving early against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3, his own son implored him to quit playing football. Finley of course passed on his son’s request and returned following the Packers’ bye week.

But now, with his latest injury causing him to be carried off the field on a stretcher, Finley needs to take a lot of time and think about his future in football. He’s been diagnosed with a bruised spinal cord, which sounds extremely threatening to long-term happiness and well-being.

At the very least, Finley should take off the rest of 2013. In fact, Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson should make the decision for Finley and put him on Injured Reserve. They made a similar choice with Nick Collins two years ago. After a serious neck injury, Collins’ long-term health was just at too great a risk to continue playing football. I’m no medical professional, but a bruised spinal cord doesn’t sound much more encouraging.

Head, neck and spinal injuries are by far the most dangerous an athlete can get, and each one makes you more susceptible to another. We’ve already seen some NFL players play victim to these injuries time and time again, like Wayne Chrebet and Austin Collie. It’s safe to say both of those guys will pay later in their lives for not hanging up their cleats earlier.

I hope the Packers make the right move and make Finley wait at least another year before he suits up again. It’s certainly not an easy decision – the receiving corps is really hurting for talent right now with Randall Cobb out seven more weeks and James Jones possibly out for a couple more.

But again, it’s important to think of these athletes as people first. It’s natural to automatically worry how Finley’s status affects your team, but you must step back and realize that is of no significance compared to his long-term health.

The decision on Collins wasn’t an easy one, either. Without him, the Packers’ secondary was in shambles and ended up ranking dead last in passing yards allowed. Yet, Thompson and McCarthy came to the right conclusion and ended Collins’ career before another devastating neck, spinal or head injury could. Let’s hope they make the right decision with Finley.

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