For as outspoken and ebullient as he normally is, Jermichael Finley was decidedly low-key answering questions at his locker on Monday.
As he prepares to play his first regular-season game in 11 months, Finley’s understated approach just three days before kickoff reflected a couple of things.
First, when he’s not careful, he knows his mouth can get him in some trouble. Whether it’s predicting Super Bowls or saying the offense should score every time it gets the ball, Finley means no harm, but his words can become unwanted headlines.
Second, he’s answered so many questions about last year’s knee injury and his rehab and now the ankle injury that had him limited in practice on Monday – though he guarantees he’ll be full-go for Thursday – that he’s a little worn out on the comeback talk.
“I’m about tired of that,” Finley said. “It’s going to be great to get this game behind me and let the world see that I’m healthy and ready to go.”
His teammates can’t wait, either.
“The big man over there, 88, he’s going to create a lot of mismatch opportunities for us as an offense,” receiver Greg Jennings said. “There aren’t a lot of defenders that can match up with a guy like that.”
Finley was on pace for a 1,200-yard receiving season through the first quarter of 2010 when a knee injury on the second snap in Week 5 ended his season. He then watched Jennings rack up the 1,200-yard season and earn a Pro-Bowl bid for the first time, while the team won the Super Bowl without him.
As challenging as it will be for quarterback Aaron Rodgers to spread the ball around to all of his weapons, Finley makes Green Bay’s offense more dangerous. There’s no getting around that.
Dating back to the 2009 NFC Wild Card playoff in Arizona, Finley’s last five full games have produced three 100-plus-yard outings, and the Packers averaged 32 points in those three games. The franchise record for 100-yard games by a tight end, not including postseason, is six, and Finley is just 24 years old.
“He’s a guy we need to get involved,” Rodgers said. “Without him last year, other guys stepped up, and now with him back, I think people are going to have to figure out what their roles are on this team.”
It sounds like the quarterback is going to look for Finley, just like he did in the preseason. Due to his previous knee injury and the new ankle tweak, Finley played just four quarters in the preseason but caught eight passes for 74 yards and a touchdown. Not bad for one game.
Finley and the receiving corps already are fielding questions this week about the “problem” of having too many playmakers who will want the ball, and the team hasn’t even played a game yet. The response for now is that there is no problem, as long as everyone takes the proper attitude.
In Rodgers they trust.
“The chemistry will come,” Finley said. “A-Rod might throw Greg 10 balls a game, and me and Driver might have two or three. As long as that ‘W’ comes with it, just be happy. We want to win a championship. Being selfish right now is not the goal.”
No, but returning to the field and proving he’s all the way back is, even if Finley’s playing it a bit coy right now.
“Energy won’t be a problem,” Tight Ends Coach Ben McAdoo said. “I can guarantee you that.” Additional coverage - Sept. 5