Bigger Finley Ready for Bigger Expectations

Personally and for the team, this is a huge season for inconsistent tight end Jermichael Finley. Finley, coming off an outstanding second half to last season, is working hard to carry that success over to the upcoming season.

Jermichael Finley hopes bigger is better, meaning a big season in what is, well, a big season.

Finley is listed at 6-foot-5 and 247 pounds, identical to the 2009 season and every succeeding season. On Tuesday, however, coach Mike McCarthy said Finley had added weight. That's in contrast to 2011, when Finley ruffled some feathers by showing up to training camp at about 240 pounds — a drop of about 10 pounds compared to 2010, he said at the time.

"He's back where I like to see him, the playing weight that he's playing with, and he's stronger, he's playing with more confidence," McCarthy said after Tuesday's minicamp practice. "I thought he was excellent in the two-minute drill today. I really like the offseason that Jermichael has put together so far."

It'd be a prime time for Finley to turn a productive offseason into a productive regular season.

From a personal perspective, Finley is entering his final season under contract. With a resume filled with inconsistent play, a big season would lead to a long-term contract and a big payday.

From a team perspective, the Packers have a huge void in the passing game without Donald Driver and Greg Jennings' combined 1,168 receptions and 114 touchdown receptions. Perhaps Jarrett Boykin — who receivers coach Edgar Bennett raved about on Tuesday — or one of the other young receivers takes a big step forward. That's a big "perhaps," though, and Aaron Rodgers' only proven playmakers are Finley and the "Big Three" receiving corps of James Jones, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.

"If I do what I'm supposed to do, everything else will take care of itself," Finley said.

Added tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot: "I don't speculate as far as volume and opportunities we're going to get. I preach about us maximizing the opportunities we're going to get. Whenever those opportunities come, we need to make the most of them. Everything that happens outside of the room is out of our control. We can only control what happens in our room."

It was Fontenot who played such a crucial role in Finley's second-half revival last season. With Fontenot turning mundane drill work into games and spending extra time on the side during special teams periods, Finley finally started catching the ball consistently and making plays with the ball. In the first nine games, according to, he caught 29-of-45 targeted passes for 271 yards, averaged 3.4 yards after the catch per reception, and had seven drops. In the final seven games, he caught 32-of-40 passes for 396 yards, averaged 6.2 yards after the catch per reception, and cut his drops to two.

"To me, the biggest statistical difference was he didn't have the number of drops or percentage of drops that he did the first half of the season," Fontenot said. "He started having confidence catching the ball, and once he gets his hands on the ball, he's always been a threat. Our main focus going into last season was eliminate needless drops, if you will, and I feel we kind of got him through that."

Finley, who generally is one of the most talkative players in the locker room, wouldn't say how much he weighs or talk in depth about his weight, other than saying that he looked back at how he played in 2009 (when he had a dominant second half of the season) and 2010 (when he had a dominant start to the season before a season-ending knee injury).

"I think last season, he was a little bit lighter than I would have liked to see him," Fontenot said. "We kind of went back over some tape of when he was heavier and showed it to him, and kept reiterating some of the things he used to do when he had a little more strength on him and a little more muscle. With everything, you just try to be very careful. It's fine-tuning. It's not making drastic changes. Certainly with a guy like him who's so athletic, so much upside you don't want to inhibit him by giving him too much (weight), having him take it overboard."

There's been another change in Finley, too, and that's his on-field approach. Always one of the more energetic and lively players on the practice field, Finley's stepped up in that regard, too. After a drill, Finley on his own dropped and started doing push-ups. During "routes on air," a passing-game drill without any defenders, Finley routinely caught the ball and ran 40 or 50 yards to the end zone.

"You know, man, the way you practice is the way you play," he said. "That's what I'm (thinking) right now. I'm practicing physical and hopefully I can carry it on to Sunday. It's minicamp right now and I'm just trying to step my game up. That's all it is."

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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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