GREEN BAY – While Jermichael Finley’s football future is uncertain after the neck injury he suffered last Sunday, safety Sean Richardson has gotten the good news he was hoping for.
After suffering a neck injury as a rookie last season and requiring single-spinal fusion surgery of the C5 and C6 vertebrae, Richardson said Thursday that the Packers’ doctors – and the five doctors the Packers sent him to as specialists – have cleared him to return to the field.
Richardson, who remains on the physically unable to perform list, is expected to get the go-ahead to start practicing at some point. When he does, a three-week window will open for him to practice, and at the end of it, the Packers will have to decide whether to put him on the 53-man roster, release him or put him on season-ending injured reserve.
“Right now, I’m cleared by all the doctors. Basically, I went to five different specialists, all of them cleared me, said it looked great, healing solid. That was a blessing,” Richardson said. “And that’s what I needed and that’s what the coaches wanted before they put me back out there. Now that that’s out of the way, now I’m just ready to put that helmet and shoulder pads back on.”
Richardson’s injury occurred during the Packers’ Nov. 25 loss to the New York Giants in East Rutherford, N.J., but the initial symptoms he felt actually pointed to a back injury. He even practiced the following week in advance of the Packers’ Dec. 2 game against Minnesota before an MRI revealed the ruptured disc in his neck.
Unlike former Packers Terrence Murphy, Gary Berry and Jeremy Thompson, who suffered neck injuries and never played again, Richardson does not have spinal stenosis – a narrowing of the spinal column – so the deciding factor on whether he’d be able to play again was how the two vertebrae knit together after the surgery.
“It was mainly all how it healed. It had to heal correctly, and that was the final process,” Richardson said. “I had to get past all that stuff. But it was just the process of healing correctly. Once it was solid, everything else would fall into place.”
Richardson said he doesn’t know if or when the Packers will activate him. He was asked if he thought there was a chance the Packers might just put him on injured reserve and have him start over in 2014.
“I hope not,” replied Richardson, who made the 53-man roster as an undrafted free agent from Vanderbilt in training camp last year. “I feel great, I’m in great shape, strong and my body hasn’t felt this great in a long time. I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in, probably faster that I’ve ever been, I feel great, explosive and stuff, the neck has never given me any problems since the surgery, it healed correctly, so I’m ready to go. I don’t think the IR is necessary.”
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