Jermichael Finley isn't lacking for confidence.
So, it's probably OK if the coaching staff isn't busy stroking his ego.
"They don't come out and tell me. They just put more plays in the playbook for me," the second-year tight end told reporters after Monday's practice. "This is the NFL. They don't tell you how good you're doing or pat you on the back or things like that. They give you more opportunities to make plays."
Finley, arguably the offense's best player during offseason workouts, has carried his strong play into training camp. On one of the best plays of camp, Finley ran a route up the seam during Monday's two-minute drill. Aaron Rodgers' pass was slightly underthrown, allowing inside linebacker A.J. Hawk to get a hand on the pass. Finley, however, adjusted and made a shoestring catch of the deflection. The 33-yard gain set up a touchdown a few plays later.
"He made a great play," Hawk said after discussing the play with Rodgers in the locker room. "He tipped it and he still caught it. That's why we have him on the team. He's a good player."
Hawk isn't the only one saying it. From Rodgers to Greg Jennings, the players have taken notice of the new-and-improved Finley. It's a far cry from last year, when the third-round pick made more news for complaining about Rodgers' passes and his role in the offense than anything he did on the field. Through 14 games, he had three catches for 10 yards. He made a couple of big plays during the final two weeks against Chicago and Detroit and scored his first career touchdown against the Lions, leading to hopes that the NFL's youngest player might blossom into a productive player once he matured.
"It was a lot of things thrown at me," Finley said. "Going from Texas, it's like a picture book to a dictionary. That's a big difference."
Now, the 6-foot-5 Finley is stronger and, more importantly, more sure of himself in the offense after spending extra time with tight ends coach Ben McAdoo. By graduating from the NFL's version of the School of Hard Knocks, Finley — who played only two seasons at Texas — is happy his rookie season is behind him.
"I feel pretty good," he said. "The more big plays I make, the more comfortable I get."
If Finley becomes a star in the NFL, it's going to be because of his superior combination of height and athleticism as a receiver. But to reach his immense potential, Finley needs to become a good run blocker and a core player on special teams. A couple of bad blocks during a three-on-three run period notwithstanding, Finley calls himself an "A-minus run blocker." In that same drill, he leveled outside linebacker Jeremy Thompson. Finley said going up against Aaron Kampman every day is making him a better blocker.
There's no arguing with his play on special teams. Even through his fits of immaturity last season, Finley was surprisingly good on special teams. It's a job he takes seriously. During a punt-block drill, Finley pushed his blocker back several yards. During punt and punt-return drills the last couple of days, his hustle and desire is evident.
"Special teams, it's a big thing in a game," Finley said. "You can win or lose on special teams. It's a big thing. On offense, if you make a bad play, you've got to erase that during special teams because if you mess up again, that can cost you an ‘L.'"
Just a half-hour after Monday's practice had concluded, Finley said he couldn't wait to get back to work.
"It's going to be an awesome year for me," he said.
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