Starter Pack: Discussing Finley's future

A roundup of what's happening on the Green Bay Packers beat.

GREEN BAY, Wis. – There's been a lot of talk from tight end Jermichael Finley's camp lately about the fact that he expects to be cleared by the doctor who performed his vertebra fusion surgery.

He first mentioned it during interviews at the Super Bowl.

And on Wednesday, his agent, Blake Baratz, reiterated that in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Baratz said that Dr. Joseph Maroon, who operated on Finley's neck last year, told him and Finley there is a "99.9 percent chance the fusion will fully heal" likely in the next 4-8 weeks. Once Maroon is sure that the fusion healed, he would clear Finley for "full football activity."

That's all well and good, but what does it mean?

Just because Maroon declares it safe for Finley to resume his career doesn't mean that any team will follow suit. Maroon doubles as the Pittsburgh Steelers' doctor, so his word carries a little more weight than a non-NFL affiliated surgeon, but it will be up to any team interested in Finley to make up its own mind likely with the consult of its own team doctors.

The Packers will be the first team with that chance provided Maroon can make a ruling before free agency opens on March 11.

But, as we've written before, the situation two years ago with safety Nick Collins is reason to wonder whether the Packers will opt to let Finley's contract run out without extending it before free agency opens.

Collins had the same surgery in the same spot -- the C-3 and C-4 vertebra -- and the Packers wouldn't clear him to return. He had another year left on his contract, but the team released him. He has not played since.

In case you missed it on ESPN.com:

Best of the rest:

  • At ESPNWisconsin.com, Jason Wilde wrote that new Packers quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt would like to have free-agent backup Matt Flynn back for another season.

  • In the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Mike Vandermause wrote that Packers president Mark Murphy, who is on the NFL's competition committee, sounds like he's in favor of expanding the playoffs (and possibly shortening the preseason) but thinks it might not have enough support to pass this offseason.