Packers head coach Mike McCarthy presented his team with the theme of “Keep Calm and Carry On” last week as the team prepared to play without the services of wide receivers Randall Cobb and James Jones.
McCarthy comes up with a new theme each week, but the sentiment in Green Bay will remain the same in light of the injury suffered to tight end Jermichael Finely on Sunday in a win over the Cleveland Browns.
According to Tom Pelissero of the USA Today, “It could be weeks before the Packers know if or when Finley can get back on the field, according to the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity and fluidity of the situation.”
Nothing definitive has come from the Packers organization almost 24 hours after Finley first suffered the injury in a fourth-quarter collision with Browns safety Tashaun Gipson.
The injury was characterized as “significant” by McCarthy but the coach could offer little more by Monday afternoon.
“As far as the injury, the specifics of it, there’s a lot of more studies that are going on, opinions to be heard, so anything in terms of a timeline would be premature to comment on that today,” said McCarthy.
Given the serious nature of what has only been described as a neck injury, it seems almost a given the Packers will be without the services of Finley for at least a short period of time and perhaps longer depending upon the prognosis.
Finley already suffered a concussion earlier this season in Week 3 against the Cincinnati Bengals that also forced him to leave the game and not return.
The Packers will have to get by at least in the short term at the tight end position with players who are neither as talented or experienced as Finley.
“We’ve got three good tight ends,” said McCarthy, referring to Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick and Jake Stoneburner. “I think it’s important to define roles for those guys and make sure they have a clear understanding. You never want to put too much on a young guy’s plate.
“So we’re not going to just roll the ball out there and say, ‘We’re going to ask you to do the things Jermichael Finley did.’ That won’t be the case.”
The Packers have a fourth tight end on the roster, Ryan Taylor, but he missed the Browns after having a relatively minor surgical procedure on his knee, coming away from the Week 6 Ravens game with an injury of his own.
Taylor hasn’t been ruled out of the upcoming Vikings game next Sunday, but the possibility exists he won’t be ready once again.
Among the three healthy tight ends currently on the Packers roster, only Quarless has any considerable experience with Bostick and Stoneburner seeing their first ever regular season action on offense against the Browns. Bostick played 10 snaps and Stoneburner just three, according to ProFootballFocus.com.
Stoneburner had only been promoted from the practice squad just days earlier.
While the Packers have been relying upon Quarless for much of the season and figures to continue to do so, his traits and qualities of a football player don’t match those of Finley.
Whereas Finley was frequently split out as a receiver in a two-point stance––a particularly important role because of injuries to Cobb and Jones––Quarless is likely to remain utilized as an in-line tight end and H-back. And it appears Stoneburner and Taylor will be used in much the same fashion.
If there’s any player who more closely resembles that of Finley, it’s the 6-3, 250 lb. Bostick––a wide receiver in a tight end’s body. He may not have the same height as Finley, but he does have the ability to play in space and stretch the field. Plus, Bostick is not particularly adept as a blocker.
McCarthy also gave an updated timeline on Jones on Monday, saying he would probably be out two or three weeks, but again, not ruling him out for the Week 8 Vikings game.
The possibility exists that the Packers could be without the services of three of their top four receiving targets coming into the season this week, only Jordy Nelson being completely healthy.
Last week, the Packers were awarded Chris Harper on waivers. There were reports that his previous team, the San Francisco 49ers, were planning to use him in a tight end and H-back role, but McCarthy said the Packers view him as a receiver.
With Jones and Taylor not likely to miss any more than a few weeks, the Packers are probably not looking to add any more help at wide receiver and tight end, at least for the time being.
In the days and weeks ahead, the Packers will be working with a make-shift receiving corps for quarterback Aaron Rodgers. They were able to come away from Sunday with a victory facing a similar challenge, but how long they can continue to do so will test the team’s draft-and-develop philosophy.
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book “It’s Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America,” and editor of Cheesehead TV’s “Pro Football Draft Preview.” To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.