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Zero2Cool  
#1 Posted : Tuesday, October 29, 2013 8:40:09 AM(UTC)


The minutes Jermichael Finley spent on the Lambeau Field turf on Oct. 20, after a helmet-to-helmet collision with Cleveland Browns safety Tashaun Gipson, were a suspended surreality for the Green Bay Packers tight end, his teammates and the NFL community. Finley was taken off the field on a stretcher and spent the night in the ICU of a Green Bay hospital, before being diagnosed with a spinal cord contusion that is expected to heal. A week later, Finley describes in a first-person account for The MMQB what it’s like to confront the possibility that one play could change your life.


Jermichael Finley said:


s this God punishing me? Is this Karma? This was my initial thought when I was down on the field. I felt as if everything that I had ever done wrong came crashing down at me at that one moment.

It all happened very quickly. I remember seeing the defender out of the corner of my eye, and I intentionally lowered my head and shoulders to protect my knees. After I got hit, in the fourth quarter of our win against the Browns last week, my eyes were wide open. I was very conscious, but I could not move. I looked my teammate Andrew Quarless directly in the eye and whispered, “Help me, Q. I can’t move; I can’t breathe.” The scariest moment was seeing the fear in Q’s eyes. I knew something was wrong, but his reaction verified it. That really shook me up.

Finley was not able to give the crowd a thumbs up as he left the field. (Mike Roemer/AP)
Gipson and the rest of Lambeau watched in silence and dismay as Finley was carted off. (Tom Lynn/AP)
While on the turf, Finley says, he had feeling in his legs but couldn’t move his arms and had difficulty breathing. (Mike Roemer/AP)

I actually had feeling in my legs, but I couldn’t feel much else. On the field, the doctors were going through regular procedures, testing me on sense and touch, and asking me a multitude of questions. But because I was a little panicked, I couldn’t breathe, which made it very difficult to answer. I remember one of the doctors telling me to “close my legs,” and I simply could not. They ended up unscrewing my facemask before lifting me up on the stretcher. When I was exiting the field at Lambeau, I tried to raise my hand to give the fans a thumbs-up, but I got about halfway and couldn’t raise my arm any further. I kept asking the neurosurgeon, “Will I walk again?” His answer was a definitive, “Yes, you are moving your legs right now.” Then I asked, “Will I use my arms again? Will I play football again?” To those questions, I simply got, “I cannot answer that yet.”

Clearly there was a problem, and I was terrified.

I was taken to the ICU at an area hospital, and the first night there was crazy. Everyone on my floor was facing life or death, while I was there more for 24-hour assistance. I didn’t even realize I was in the ICU until the doctor came in and told me, “Finley, you’re holding up ICU. You have way too many visitors, and even the patients that are on this floor want to come and meet you. We can’t have this traffic up here. It’s not safe.” I wanted to say, Bro, I am strapped to a board. What do you want me to do about it? However, I resisted the urge.

I always joke around with friends, family and teammates, and that continued. As serious as the situation was, we kept trying to laugh. That helped a ton. My wife, Courtney, came by later that night, and we just talked about life. It was a weird dynamic. People with emergencies all around me, but life just goes forward.

The scariest part of the entire scenario was the unknown. I was having trouble breathing and speaking. I couldn’t move. I was taking all sorts of tests, and no one could give me any answers. There was some concern initially that I might need an immediate spinal cord surgery. The initial CT scan came back negative Sunday night, which meant no fracture in my neck. That was obviously tremendous news, and a major blessing for my family and me.

get better

On Monday, I began to feel much better. I had started to regain motion, and I was actually able to stand up and shower for the first time since the game. My balance and coordination were still a bit off, which was alarming, but they came back as the hours passed. My grandma and father-in-law flew in from Texas, and a couple members from IFA (my agency) came in from Minneapolis. That night, I transferred into a regular patient unit, and I think about half of my teammates and coaches came to the hospital to visit me. I felt so blessed and appreciative. I’ve certainly been through my fair share of ups and downs in Green Bay, but it was really amazing to feel the love and support from my teammates, coaches and fans during this 48-hour period. It means more to me than I could ever explain.


I underwent a series of exams (CT scan, MRI, X-Ray, etc.) to determine the extent of the injury. Monday afternoon, our team doctors and my agent sent out copies to a half-dozen spine experts around the country. It may have looked like I had another concussion, after suffering one in Cincinnati last month, but it turns out the injury is what doctors have called a spinal cord contusion. The blow shocked my spine, and left me with a two-centimeter bruise on my spinal cord that should heal in time.

My medical treatment to this point has been superb, and the Packers and my agent have been working together to determine how outside medical experts view this injury, how previous cases have been handled and what the next steps of action should be. Right now, the recovery timeline is still uncertain, so we don’t know yet if this injury will end my season. Obviously the most important thing for me right now is to rest, and to let the contusion heal. After that, I will most likely go visit a handful of specialists around the country for thorough second and third evaluations of my neck and head. One thing that I know is that I am in great hands. I have a tremendous support system and this incident only made that clearer. I am blessed.

There have been a lot of reports about my off-the-field life, and my efforts to mature as a person and as a player over this past year. I’ve surrounded myself with a team of people who have helped me take the next step in my life, and while I still have room to grow, I’m in a far better place in today than I was two or three years ago. One of those areas is financially.


My agent and financial advisers have always preached the importance of disability insurance to me. As athletes, we often feel invincible, which is why it is so important to have advisers who you can trust and who can also take the emotion out of any situation. I don’t feel the pressure that I see many athletes do because I’ve taken their advice. I currently have a $10 million insurance policy in place. If this injury prevents me from ever playing football again, I will be able to collect on $10 million tax-free. For me, this is the equivalent of making another $16 million or $17 million in pre-tax salary. While money has absolutely nothing to do with my decision to play, I can sleep at night knowing that regardless of what happens, my family is financially secure forever—maybe the biggest odds I’ll ever overcome. Disability insurance is never a fun conversation, and writing those annual checks to protect myself is tough. But now, more than ever, I understand the importance of protecting yourself, protecting your family, and protecting your future earnings.

Of course I plan to play football again. This is what I love to do. I love the game. I love Sundays. Based on the feedback I’ve received from doctors at this point, the question is not if I’ll play again, but when. There is no better feeling in the world than making the “Lambeau Leap” into the stands, and I fully intend on having that surreal feeling again soon. I will do everything in my power to rehab and get back to the player I have been, and improve into the player I know I can be.

Do I have fear? Of course I do. It’s impossible not to have fear given what I’ve gone through over the past four weeks. I’ve worked my entire life to do what I do on that football field, and it’s a very scary feeling being taken off the field on a stretcher. No matter what’s said about drops or any off-the-field stuff, the one thing no one can question about me is how hard I work to be a great football player. I want this. I need this. It’s everything to me. It’s a scary thought knowing I could have left that field on Sunday never being able to strap up my helmet again, let alone walk.

Today, I feel better. I feel like I was in a bad car accident, but each day I’m improving. My motor skills, coordination and balance are all back to normal. I’m getting anxious sitting around all day, but I know my neck is healing. I am confident that I will be part of a new case study of players who returned to football successfully after suffering neck and head trauma. Just like we see every year with ACL recovery, anything is possible when you combine drive and commitment with a tremendous support system and team, and amazing advances in science and medicine.

Before every game I play, my 5-year-old son, Kaydon, says a prayer for my health and safety. The other day, he asked me, “Why didn’t God listen to our prayers last Sunday?” I told him that he did hear us, but sometimes God helps us in different ways. “I think you’re right Daddy,” Kaydon said. “He heard us and now he’s getting you better and healthy so you can play football again.”
nerdmann  
#2 Posted : Tuesday, October 29, 2013 8:42:18 AM(UTC)
My dad was a garbage man. Broke his back working. Went to the same hospital.

Made alot less money. Didn't get to retire.
Rockmolder  
#3 Posted : Tuesday, October 29, 2013 1:32:11 PM(UTC)
I wanted to make some comments on the karma part, but this is way too severe for grudges.

Let's hope he'll come back strong and finds a way to stay healthy. Just from memory, he always seems to be curling up when he's about to get hit and every time he does, he gets a big blow to his head. I know it's more of a reflex than anything else, but maybe they could do something with that.
nerdmann  
#4 Posted : Tuesday, October 29, 2013 4:05:11 PM(UTC)
Rockmolder said: Go to Quoted Post
I wanted to make some comments on the karma part, but this is way too severe for grudges.

Let's hope he'll come back strong and finds a way to stay healthy. Just from memory, he always seems to be curling up when he's about to get hit and every time he does, he gets a big blow to his head. I know it's more of a reflex than anything else, but maybe they could do something with that.


We used to call that getting low and running behind your pads.
Bigbyfan  
#5 Posted : Tuesday, October 29, 2013 8:55:40 PM(UTC)
Let's please keep the politics out of the Packers section.

On topic, I am still holding on to whatever little hope is left that JMike can return at some point this season.
play2win  
#6 Posted : Wednesday, October 30, 2013 6:44:35 AM(UTC)
Really, I'm just super grateful he can live a normal life after the hit. Whether or not he plays football again is besides the point. I'm hopeful he can resume his career as a TE for the Packers, but that is so very secondary. Finley, being able to lead a full life after that hit is icing on the cake, football or no football.

I doubt highly that he returns to the field this year, just as a gut feeling. The Packers organization is very careful with these types of decisions. I wish him all the best and applaud his level of play prior to injury. He really showed a commitment to improving his performance, and it showed all season. If we get him back for the playoffs, I'll be happily shocked, but really happy for him. If not, still really happy for him, the person that Jermichael Finley is. Seems like a good family man.

The fact that he sustained such a severe injury from that hit leads me to believe he may have a weakness in the spine, one that might prevent him from being cleared to play the game again. Pure speculation on my part. Maybe he will be able to resume his career after a surgical repair. The doctors will sort it all out, but that will take time. As hopeful as I am for his return, I'm more doubtful that he returns to play for us. The sadness of that clearly outweighed by the happiness he can still live a full life.
wpr  
#7 Posted : Wednesday, October 30, 2013 8:05:37 AM(UTC)
play2win said: Go to Quoted Post
Really, I'm just super grateful he can live a normal life after the hit. Whether or not he plays football again is besides the point. I'm hopeful he can resume his career as a TE for the Packers, but that is so very secondary. Finley, being able to lead a full life after that hit is icing on the cake, football or no football.

I doubt highly that he returns to the field this year, just as a gut feeling. The Packers organization is very careful with these types of decisions. I wish him all the best and applaud his level of play prior to injury. He really showed a commitment to improving his performance, and it showed all season. If we get him back for the playoffs, I'll be happily shocked, but really happy for him. If not, still really happy for him, the person that Jermichael Finley is. Seems like a good family man.

The fact that he sustained such a severe injury from that hit leads me to believe he may have a weakness in the spine, one that might prevent him from being cleared to play the game again. Pure speculation on my part. Maybe he will be able to resume his career after a surgical repair. The doctors will sort it all out, but that will take time. As hopeful as I am for his return, I'm more doubtful that he returns to play for us. The sadness of that clearly outweighed by the happiness he can still live a full life.



yeah I don't see him coming back this year either.
Rockmolder  
#8 Posted : Wednesday, October 30, 2013 9:53:47 AM(UTC)
nerdmann said: Go to Quoted Post
We used to call that getting low and running behind your pads.


And I do when Lacey gets low and runs behind his pads, but with Finley it looks more like flinching and curling up.
Zero2Cool  
#9 Posted : Monday, November 4, 2013 10:00:39 AM(UTC)
Zero2Cool  
#10 Posted : Monday, November 11, 2013 2:34:07 PM(UTC)
Mark Chmura just said he spoke with Jermichael Finley and he's having surgery this Friday. I think that will conclude his NFL career, surely the Packers portion.

play2win  
#11 Posted : Monday, November 11, 2013 2:38:41 PM(UTC)
I wish him well in his recovery. That would be sad if he cannot play again, but as long as he can live a full, healthy normal life with his wife and family, he's won - in a very big way.
gbguy20  
#12 Posted : Tuesday, November 12, 2013 6:19:25 PM(UTC)
i thought he only had a spinal bruise?
nerdmann  
#13 Posted : Tuesday, November 12, 2013 9:37:33 PM(UTC)
gbguy20 said: Go to Quoted Post
i thought he only had a spinal bruise?


Exactly.
Dulak  
#14 Posted : Wednesday, November 13, 2013 10:33:05 AM(UTC)
I dont know enough about spinal 'bruising' but I should of been a spinal surgeon instead of a chiropractor - least I would be making decent money

collins - finley - I really hope the surgeon has the patient in mind instead of just the pocket book.

neck surgery isnt something Id op for unless absolutely necessary but IMO thats for everything.
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