Watching the Packers win the Super Bowl without him hasn’t humbled Jermichael Finley – at least not outwardly. The start of the 2011 season may still be almost two months away, but the fourth-year tight end’s mouth is already in midseason form. And while most of what Finley said to reporters after a recent workout in the Twin Cities was rather innocuous, I found his declaration that the offense will be “way, way different” to be a bit disconcerting. And something tells me the people at 1265 Lombardi Ave. weren’t thrilled either.
Here’s what Finley said when asked by Judd Zulgad of the Minneapolis Star Tribune what he expects his role to be in the offense (by the way, it says something when one of the more interesting stories on the Packers this offseason was initiated by a reporter who covers the Vikings): “I’m thinner right now. GB (is) probably not like me right now but I’m trying to stand up this year. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. I think (lining up in) a two-point (stance), I can get on the linebacker quicker, I can get on the safety quicker and it’s a win-win for me and 12 (Aaron Rodgers).”
According to Finley, he stood up “a good 60” percent of the time last year. “Standing up, I think that’s the best position for me,” he said. Asked if the coaches are comfortable with that, Finley replied, “They’re going to be comfortable with it.”
When reminded by Zulgad that he plays a position that requires the occasional block or two, Finley needed little time or prodding to come up with a response. ““We’ve got tons of guys (who can block), to tell you the truth and we drafted two of them. We drafted two tight ends this year,” he said. Asked if the selections of Williams and Taylor raised some eyebrows, Finley replied, “It did, but at the same time I know my ability and I see the ability they brought in and I guarantee you I’ll still be a focus.”
Granted, after listening to Steelers’ linebacker James Harrison call Commissioner Roger Goodell a “crook and a puppet” and Eagles’ wide receiver DeSean Jackson refer to gay people as “faggots” in the past few weeks, I’ll admit Finley’s quotes are no big deal. But it’s just another example of the former Texas star appearing to put himself before the team. Look, every tight end in the world would prefer to line up more often as a receiver and less often in a three-point stance at the line of scrimmage, but how many of them would say that publicly? And how many of them would say that at the age of 24 and with only 82 career receptions on their résumé?
It would be one thing if the coaches told Finley to lose weight and be prepared to line up at receiver on the majority of downs, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. For one thing, Mike McCarthy has only seen his players one time this entire offseason, and I doubt he broached this subject with Finley during the ring ceremony. And for another, just re-read the quotes. It sure sounds as if he made the decision to slim down on his own. The admission that “GB (is) probably not like me right now but I’m trying to stand up this year” is pretty telling.
As much as I admire Finley’s talent, I’ve always had a problem with his personality. Here’s the concluding paragraph of a story I wrote last August: “While there’s obviously a lot to like about Finley, there’s also enough red flags to be concerned. It’s easy to use his age as an excuse, but the truth is, some players never grow up. And don’t you have to worry about a player who can’t – or more accurately won’t – follow the rules on the night before the biggest game of his life? And we haven’t even broached the subject of fame and fortune and how Finley will deal with those two things. Look, maybe he’ll be fine and someday I’ll look back on this post and laugh. But my gut tells me something else. Check back in a few years and we’ll see if I was prescient or just gassy.” Pass me a Pepcid.