GREEN BAY – Jerry Fontenot isn’t a doctor, nor does he play one in the hallway outside the Green Bay Packers locker room. What the Packers tight ends coach is, however, is a father, Jermichael Finley’s position coach and a guy who played 16 NFL seasons and can remember two other instances like the one he saw on Sunday, when Finley suffered a neck injury during the Packers’ victory over the Cleveland Browns and left Lambeau Field in an ambulance.
“Unfortunately those are kind of images that stick with you,” Fontenot said Thursday, the same day that Finley was able to go home from a local hospital. “In my draft class in ’89, there were two guys that had neck injuries. One of them, Dennis Byrd, was playing with the Jets. The other one was Mike Utley, an offensive lineman in Detroit. Unfortunately, you get visions of injuries like that occurring and it’s always tough to see. Whenever it’s one of the guys in your family, it’s really hard.”
Fontenot, who had previously coached from upstairs in the coaches’ box but moved down to the field this season, didn’t realize the severity of Finley’s injury initially, saying he instead saw Finley catch the ball, get hit and then saw the ball come out.
“That’s kind of what caught my focus was the ball trickling out at the very end,” said Fontenot, who is preparing Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick and Jake Stoneburner for Sunday’s game at Minnesota. “The next thing I noticed was Andrew over there next to him, and I could tell something was wrong. Obviously from there, it was a little bit surreal.
“I went out on to the field at some point to see how he was, and by that point they had already taken off his facemask, so I knew it probably wasn’t good. Again, I just tried to console him as best I could in that moment. Anybody that knows Jermichael, he’s very competitive and extremely enthusiastic person, and he was a little shaken by the whole thing.”
Fontenot said he simply watched as the medical staff tended to Finley and evaluated him. He and head coach Mike McCarthy went to see Finley in the hospital with other Packers staffers while Finley was still in the intensive care unit.
“I drove over because I live not far from there, (and) I just happened to bump into Mike when I was walking up. And then there were some other people in the organization that had gone there with his wife, Courtney, and were kind of holding her hand through the process as well,” Fontenot said. “Whenever you have an injury of that sort, the first thing you really care about is the person being able to live a long and healthy life, because (you don’t know) the severity of it (when) it happened. I think after that, after we get the information at least, we know what we’re dealing with and then we can start to move forward.
“I think we’re in a good place now. We’re supporting him all the best that we can. Meanwhile, we’re going to go out there, do our best for him (on Sunday night against the Vikings), and if and when he’s ready to come back, we’ll be ready to take him back in.”
Quarless and Bostick both said after visiting Finley in the hospital that Finley is hoping to play football again. Finley let his fans know that he was home from the hospital in a Tweet on Thursday afternoon.
Home Sweet Home! #FinleyStrong— Jermichael Finley (@JermichaelF88) October 24, 2013
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There are no games scheduled for today.