GREEN BAY – While the waiting remains frustrating, Jermichael Finley remains hopeful that he will continue his NFL career – and he wants to do it with the only team he’s known as a pro: The Green Bay Packers.
Speaking in a brief phone interview between workouts Wednesday, the free-agent tight end said that he is feeling good and that he still fully intends to resume his football career. And he hopes it’s with the Packers.
Finley received medical clearance from his surgeon, Dr. Joseph Maroon, in late May, but despite visits to the New England Patriots and New York Giants, and a check-in with the Packers’ medical staff, he remains unsigned.
As he worked out Wednesday, though, Finley was in good spirits. He didn’t sound discouraged by the waiting game and said he continues to be in great shape physically.
“This is the best I’ve felt in this entire crazy process,” he said.
While Finley didn’t discuss other potential suitors and didn’t say whether the Packers have reached out to him recently, he made it clear that coming back to Green Bay is his preference.
“Tell everybody I'm working as hard as I can to get back to Packer Nation,” he said.
The enduring question with Finley remains whether an NFL team doctor will clear him, paving the way for him to sign with that team. Finley’s agent, Blake Baratz, told NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk Live in late May that his client also must seriously consider the $10 million in tax-free money he would receive from a disability policy should he never play football again. Finley had the policy in place before undergoing C3/C4 spinal fusion on Finley in January. He suffered a bruised spinal cord on Oct. 20 against Cleveland.
“Opinions can be subjective. Dr. Maroon’s opinion may not be the opinion of 31 other team doctors,” Baratz told host Mike Florio in a telephone interview, during which he broke the news of Maroon clearing Finley. “Now, a lot of the teams that are interested in Jermichael are getting copies of the films, he’s going to start taking visits [on Friday], and the process will start moving along.
“He may not be 100 percent there yet, but he’s very close. He’s working out, he’s in phenomenal shape, he can do everything right now. The question is just whether everyone would sign off on him taking a hit right now, which obviously he wouldn’t need to do anyway.”
Asked by Florio if Maroon had given Finley full clearance to play football again, Baratz replied, “That is correct. … The final question is whether those other doctors, whether they’re NFL team doctors or independent doctors, would also green-light him to take a hit.”
Later in the interview, when asked about the $10 million policy, Baratz again acknowledged that other doctors might not clear Finley, even though Maroon, the Pittsburgh Steelers' team neurosurgeon, did.
“I think in [Finley's] case, it will be fairly easy [to collect] because there’s going to be a lot of experts and doctors that would not clear him today,” Baratz said. “Now, three weeks from now, or six weeks from now, or nine weeks from now, and he plays in X number of games, it’s a different story. But if he shuts it down right now, he’s got a very sound argument to collect on the disability plan.”
Tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot said last month that he and Finley had exchanged some text messages throughout the offseason and that he has not given up hope that he’ll be coaching Finley again.
“I’m absolutely hoping for the best. Nothing would please me more than to be able to welcome Jermicahel Finley as a member of the Green Bay Packers again,” Fontenot said then. “[But] that’s a decision that unfortunately isn’t going to be made by any coaching staffs. It’s going to be a medical decision, ultimately. So whatever they say, we move with. Sure, I’d love to see him back, but not at the expense of him possibly further injuring himself.
“Again, it’s up to our medical staff. Those are the guys that we trust and we listen to.”
The Packers open training camp on July 26.
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There are no games scheduled for today.