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Finley will have surgery, hopes to resume career

Nov 13, 2013 -- 4:32pm
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Jermichael Finley's agent issued a statement Wednesday confirming that his client will have surgery.

GREEN BAY -- Jermichael Finley will indeed undergo spinal fusion surgery, his agent Blake Baratz said in a statement released Wednesday to Pro Football Talk.

The Green Bay Packers tight end suffered a bruised spinal cord in the Packers’ Oct. 20 game against the Cleveland Browns and is on season-ending injured reserve. The 26-year-old is in the final year of his contract and set to become an unrestricted free agent in March.

“We have collectively determined that while surgery may not be 100% necessary, it is a proactive measure that should alleviate future risks with regards to a similar episode or re-injury,” Baratz said in the statement. The spinal fusion will be performed by Dr. Joseph Maroon, the Pittsburgh Steelers team neurosurgeon.

“Once surgery has been completed, Jermichael has every intention of resuming his football career, and we fully support his efforts to do so,” Baratz said.

Baratz said the statement was released in response to comments made by former Packers tight end Mark Chmura, who spoke with Finley at the Packers’ game against Philadelphia on Sunday.

Chmura, who co-hosts The Miller Lite Football Show on 540 ESPN with Craig Karmazin, said during an appearance on The Homer & Thunder Show with Steve “The Homer” True and Mitch “Thunder” Nelles earlier this week that he’d spoken to Finley and said he believed Finley’s career was likely over, based on that conversation.

Finley had agreed to appear on Green & Gold Today on Wednesday morning but said in a text message that he was at the doctor’s office and was unable to appear.

Here is the full statement Baratz released to Pro Football Talk:

“We have spent countless hours over the past few weeks meeting with the top spine specialists, neurologists, and neurosurgeons throughout the country to gather information and opinions regarding Jermichael Finley’s spinal-cord injury. Since Mr. Chmura decided to speak out publicly and inaccurately regarding this situation, we felt that it would be best to clarify the facts on Jermichael’s behalf. First and foremost, Jermichael’s long-term health is our primary concern.  While his return to professional football is a hot topic of conversation, his ability to live a long and fulfilling life with his loved ones is by far and away our main objective.

“Regarding Jermichael’s specific injury, it is important to note that expert opinions differ across the board, from surgical procedures to rehabilitation methods to returning to contact sports. Working alongside the Packers organization, we have discussed and analyzed all of these opinions, as well as all of the potential scenarios moving forward. We have collectively determined that while surgery may not be 100% necessary, it is a proactive measure that should alleviate future risks with regards to a similar episode or re-injury. Jermichael has elected to undergo a spinal fusion with Dr. Joseph Maroon, the Pittsburgh Steelers team Neurosurgeon. Dr. Maroon is experienced in conducting this type of procedure on professional athletes in contact sports, and is confident that Jermichael will fully recover following the procedure. Once surgery has been completed, Jermichael has every intention of resuming his football career, and we fully support his efforts to do so.

“Jermichael and his family appreciate all of the love and support they have received, and simply ask that we all respect their privacy during his recovery process.  Jermichael promises to keep everyone updated over the coming days, weeks, and months.”

On Monday, Chmura said Finley told him the spinal fusion would be done on the C3 and C4 vertebrae, and based on Chmura’s own neck injury experience, he predicted Finley’s career in Green Bay was over.

“I got a chance to talk to Jermichael Finley before the game, and I would bet my bottom dollar his career’s over.  Over,” Chmura said. “He needs surgery, and it’s herniated in [the C3 and C4 vertebrae]. … I think it’s gonna be a Nick Collins deal.  He’s definitely not going to play in Green Bay. I’d put my house on that.”

Collins, a three-time Pro Bowl safety, was released by the Packers in 2012 after he suffered a herniated disc between the C3 and C4 vertebrae and underwent single spinal-fusion surgery. Dr. Frank Camissa performed Collins’ surgery in New York, and while it was deemed a success, the Packers medical staff was unwilling to clear Collins to return to football. Collins still is hopeful to play again but has not found a team willing to give him a chance.

Chmura knows from personal experience about neck injuries, He underwent surgery in 1999 to fuse the C5 and C6 vertebrae and never played again.

Meanwhile, safety Sean Richardson, who suffered a neck injury last year and underwent spinal fusion surgery to fuse the C5 and C6 vertebrae, practiced for the first time Wednesday after starting the season on the physically unable to perform list.

Historically, the Packers have been reluctant to activate players who suffered neck injuries. In addition to Collins and Chmura, other ex-Packers who never played again after neck injuries include wide receiver Sterling Sharpe, who suffered a C1-C2 disk injury late in the 1994 season; safety Gary Berry, who suffered a bruised spinal column as a rookie in 2000; wide receiver Terrence Murphy, who suffered a bruised spinal cord as a rookie in 2005; offensive lineman Tony Palmer, who suffered a fractured vertebrae in 2007; and linebacker Jeremy Thompson, who suffered a bruised spinal cord in practice in 2009.

Before Baratz released his statement, Packers coach Mike McCarthy was asked at his press conference if he had spoken to Finley recently and said that he had not. He did not offer up the any information about an impending surgery. 

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