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Finley injury stuns locker room

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Tyler Dunne, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
October 21, 2013

GREEN BAY—This didn't feel like a win for the Green Bay Packers. Not in pockets of the Packers' locker room anyway.

A dazed Andrew Quarless sat with a towel draped over his head. To his right, Brandon Bostick asked if he saw the play, if he was on the field for the knockout blow that left Jermichael Finley motionless during Sunday's 31-13 win over the Cleveland Browns.

Quarless' response was barely audible. The answer was “yes.” He was. Quarless would later admit he didn't handle the scene well, either.

Seeing his teammate, his friend motionless was difficult.

“I'm not going to lie,” Quarless said. “I haven't cried in a long time, but I definitely shed a tear for him. That's my brother, first of all. That's my brother on the ground. We're there every day in the same room. For me personally, it kind of messed me up for a little second.”

Green Bay did, in fact, win at Lambeau Field Sunday evening. But a team plagued by injuries had yet another pass catcher go down. And this one packed more emotion than any other. Finley officially suffered a “neck” injury, and the team did say he had motion in his extremities. Sunday night, Finley's agent Blake Baratz tweeted a thank you, adding “Keep him in your thoughts & be patient. Football doesn't matter right now.”

Losing Finley with 10 minutes to go Sunday took an emotional toll on players. And losing him for an extended period of time would take a toll, too.

Quarless was one of the first players on the scene. Finley hauled in a 10-yard reception and absorbed a hard hit to the neck-shoulder area from Cleveland's Tashaun Gipson. Quarless tried to help Finley up, and the 26-year-old tight end told him he couldn't even move. Quarless told him to stay down, trainers rushed over and for five, six minutes Lambeau Field became pin-drop quiet.

An eerie, tense, chill set in.

Seeing those eyes up close—“a pain or something” in those eyes—was difficult for Quarless.

“It was one of those looks that was tough to see,” he said.

After the game, Gipson himself maintained that he had no malicious intent, saying “I am not the biggest guy on the field, so I try to be as aggressive as possible.” He was flagged for unnecessary roughness.

Before play resumed, center Evan Dietrich-Smith spoke to the team briefly. Three snaps later, Aaron Rodgers connected with Jordy Nelson for a 1-yard touchdown and the Packers took a 24-6 lead. But make no mistake. Players were not programmed robots by any means.

Right guard T.J. Lang said he was “nauseated” by the whole situation. He needed to step away. Four weeks earlier, Finley suffered a concussion at Cincinnati.

“There was clearly something wrong, so I kind of walked away,” Lang said. “It kind of just nauseates me when something like that happens. It's such a violent game sometimes. So many thoughts run through your mind. Hopefully, he's all right.”

Left tackle David Bakhtiari saw Gipson “come in with his head” and hit Finley and once he saw the ball pop out, he knew something was wrong.

“I just said, 'Why? Again?'“ said Bakhtiari. “There's no place in football for it and yet that is the nature of the beast. … It's a disgusting sight. My heart goes out to him. You hate to see that.”

And wide receiver Myles White says he looks up to Finley like a big brother. He heard trainers telling Finley to stay still as a precaution, but White badly wanted Finley to give fans a thumbs up—something, anything—to indicate he was OK. Strapped to a stretcher, Finley was rolled into the locker room and sent to the hospital for tests.

No signals. Only subtle movement of his arms.

If the Packers are forced to play without the tight end for multiple weeks, it'd be another crushing blow. He's 6 feet 5 inches, 247 pounds of NBA-like athleticism. In the first quarter, Finley caught a short pass, spun and then rammed through defenders into the end zone.

After reconfiguring the offense sans Randall Cobb, the Packers might have to do it all over again without Finley.

“He's a hell of a player,” left guard Josh Sitton said. “He's one of the best athletes I've ever seen out on the field.”

Concern was wiped across the faces of several teammates. News should come soon on Finley's status. The Packers might be forced to adapt—again. Quarless, the one crying at the sight of Finley, might be the starter.

For now, he wants absolutely no part of X's and O's. Emotionally exhausted, Quarless shook his head.

“It's not even something I want to think about at this moment,” Quarless said. “I just pray for him and want him to get better. Playing time is irrelevant right now. That's it.”



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