GREEN BAY, Wis. -- When injuries occur, football players are conditioned to deal with them and move on to the next play, the next game.
In some ways, the whole next-man-up philosophy is rather callous.
But every so often, an injury makes even the most hardened veterans pause and wonder how they can stick to that mindset.
Such was the case on Sunday, when Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley was motionless on the ground at Lambeau Field after he sustained a neck injury, which left Finley in the intensive care unit at an area hospital, according to ESPN senior NFL Insider Chris Mortensen.
At least one Packers player, tight end Andrew Quarless, said he cried on the field after seeing Finley unable to move. Another player, receiver Jordy Nelson, appeared to be fighting back tears when talking about it after the game.
“That’s honestly the first time it really got me,” Nelson said as his eyes moistened. “I didn’t like what I saw. Hopefully, he’ll be all right. He needs to take his time.”
The Packers said Finley had movement and feeling in all of his extremities, but that apparently wasn’t the case initially. Quarless, one of the first players to reach Finley after the injury, said Finley told him he couldn’t move.
“Me personally, that kinda messed me up for a little second,” Quarless said. “But I knew I had to be strong for him but also for my team and just stay in there, stay locked in.”
It was the second time this season that Finley sustained a serious injury. He was knocked out of the Packers' Week 3 game at Cincinnati with a concussion. Several players said Finley did not lose consciousness after Sunday’s hit, which was delivered by Cleveland Browns safety Tashaun Gipson with 10:03 remaining in the Packers’ 31-13 win.
Finley was surrounded by medical staff, and the game was delayed for six minutes.
“That’s not something you teach or train,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after the game. “I just think that’s the humanistic part of our game. I think players on both sides of the ball, they’re obviously concerned for Jermichael. I thought the officials did a nice job there not rushing right back into the game so we were able to have communication, kind of reset our clock there, and I think it was the next play or the second play after that was the big play to Jarrett Boykin. I think you’ve just got to give credit to our players in those types of situations.”
But that doesn’t mean it was easy.
“It was tough, man, seeing that happen,” Packers left guard Josh Sitton said. “Watching him laying on the ground for a little bit and then having to keep playing is tough. We know how dangerous this sport can be, but still, man, when something like that happens, it’s tough to keep playing and not think about it, but we did a good job of just, you know, we kept going and ended up scoring in the drive. But that’s definitely tough.”