Camp Preview: Top Concern at TE

We put Jermichael Finley's injury history into perspective and tell you the potential consequences.

Jermichael Finley's talent is undeniable.

But to become truly great, Finley needs to be healthy for a full season.

That didn't happen when he burst onto the scene in 2009, when he missed three games with a sprained left knee. And it didn't happen in 2010, when he was lost for the season with an injured right knee sustained just two snaps into the fifth game.

In his three seasons, Finley has missed 16 of a possible 48 regular-season games. For comparison, here's how Finley stacks up against some of the NFL's other elite tight ends:

— Atlanta's Tony Gonzalez hasn't missed a game in 14 seasons.

— Dallas' Jason Witten has missed just one game in eight seasons.

— San Diego's Antonio Gates has missed nine games in eight seasons.

— Indianapolis' Dallas Clark has missed 24 games in eight seasons.

— Washington's Chris Cooley has missed nine games in seven seasons.

— San Francisco's Vernon Davis has missed eight games in five seasons.

— Jacksonville's Marcedes Lewis has missed two games in five seasons.

— Oakland's Zach Miller has missed two games in four seasons.

Of course, Finley's injury history is relatively brief and doesn't mean it's a sign of things to come. Remember the whispers about Aaron Rodgers a few years ago? The surgery that ended Finley's season last year was done in large part with his long-term best interests at heart. Given his passion for the game, there's little reason to doubt he attacked his rehab with a vengeance and will be ready to roll when camp opens.

All of this makes it a defining season for Finley — coming in a contract year, no less. If Finley stays healthy and produces for a full season like he did for half of 2009 or a quarter of 2010, he'll put up monster numbers and earn a monster payday. If Finley is sidelined by injuries once again, his numbers — and checkbook — will suffer.

From the Packers' perspective, they won it all without Finley last year. This year, though, could be a different story. With four starting-caliber receivers, the Packers could offset Finley's absence by running a steady diet of three- and four-receiver sets. They might not have that luxury this year if James Jones departs in free agency and rookie Randall Cobb is unable to contribute immediately. In fact, if Jones departs and Donald Driver doesn't have a rebound season, the offense could be sunk without Finley joining Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson as the only reliable receiving threats.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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