After he declared in an appearance earlier this summer amid the league lockout, "We will be in Indianapolis," referencing the site of Super Bowl XLVI on Feb. 5, Finley was talking the talk some more as training camp opened Saturday.
Not only is Finley 100 percent confident he will be back in the starting lineup for the season opener Sept. 8 against the New Orleans Saints, less than a year after he suffered a debilitating knee injury, the leaner tight end expects to send a heavy jolt through the NFL this season.
The 6-foot-5 Finley, who took a few seven-on-seven reps on Monday and might be cleared for more extensive work when the team returns to practice on Wednesday, reported at 240 pounds. Thanks to a vigorous rehab program, Finley dropped more than 10 pounds from his peak weight last season before he sustained torn ligaments in his right knee on Oct. 10 at Washington.
Finley, whose reshaped physique resembles that of a sturdy wideout, isn't interested in putting the weight back on but insists he can function as a tight end who will be able to bounce off any 250-pound linebacker who tries to knock him off his pass route.
"I ain't going to let anybody toss me around, brother," Finley said.
Finley said the coaches have been "cool" with having him play at a lighter weight and appear to be receptive to his desire to be utilized more in a two-point, stand-up position.
The return of Finley, along with emerging receiver James Jones being re-signed to a three-year deal as an unrestricted free agent Sunday, restores Green Bay's vaunted passing attack triggered by quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The Packers managed to overcome the early-season loss of Finley after five games when Rodgers caught fire in the postseason on the way to leading them to the league title.
"Getting 88 back never hurts," Rodgers said of Finley.
The future for Finley in Green Bay after this season, when he would become an unrestricted free agent, is up in the air. He knows full well what is at stake financially if he can make it through the entire season uninjured for the first time in his four-year career.
"I'm just like every fan out there, every Packer fan — I'm pissed off, too, that I can't get a 16-game season in," Finley said. "But, I guarantee you if I do, I'm going to change the tight end position. Guaranteed!"
Expected battle of the week: Derek Sherrod vs. T.J. Lang at left guard. Even without the benefit of a single rep in the offseason because of the lockout, first-round draft pick Sherrod was thrust into the starting role on the opening night of training camp Saturday. The natural tackle (6-5, 321), who excelled in run blocking at Mississippi State, will get the first shot to succeed departed free agent Daryn Colledge (Arizona). Lang, who started three games at tackle as a rookie in 2009, is hungry for a full-time role after his shot to unseat Colledge last year went by the wayside because of a wrist injury.
Other battle fronts: Ryan Grant vs. James Starks at halfback. Coach Mike McCarthy seems inclined to go with a back-by-committee, but a healthy Grant has a chip on his shoulder to reclaim the featured role after missing all but one game last season because of an ankle injury. Starks, a sixth-round draft pick in 2010, stood out in Green Bay's postseason surge to victory in Super Bowl XLV. ... Mike Neal vs. C.J. Wilson at right defensive end. Neal is another injury casualty (rotator cuff) from early last season who is motivated to contribute in a big way. The starting job is up for grabs after Cullen Jenkins, as expected, bolted in free agency — signing a lucrative five-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. While Neal is on a limited schedule the first few days of camp, fellow second-year player Wilson is getting valuable first-team reps after flashing at times last season. ... Frank Zombo vs. Erik Walden at right outside linebacker. They combined for 14 starts last season in the spot opposite star Clay Matthews after Brad Jones suffered an early-season knee injury. Walden was a catalyst in helping the Packers get to the Super Bowl, but an untimely bum ankle enabled Zombo to get back in as the starter for the title game after the undrafted rookie sat a long stretch because of a knee injury.
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