The Packers released Collins in 2012, less than a year after he underwent cervical fusion surgery to repair a herniated disc between his C-3 and C-4 vertebra – an injury he sustained in Week 2 of the 2011 season at Carolina.
Collins, who was 28 years old and coming off his third straight Pro Bowl season at the time of his injury, hasn’t played since.
But he’s hoping another team is willing to take a chance on him.
There’s little reason to think the Packers' position on Collins would change. Collins said team physician Dr. Pat McKenzie had reservations about putting him back on the field following the surgery that was performed by New York-based specialist Dr. Frank Cammisa.
“What I do know is that Dr. McKenzie in 2012, he just wasn’t 100 percent sold on the idea of me going back to play,” Collins said Wednesday in a telephone interview. “That’s the only information that I can really give you on that end. But like I said, from my end, it’s that from the surgery I’m 100 percent healed. I have no weakness, and I’m ready if someone is willing to take that chance.”
Since Collins’ injury, two other Packers players have sustained similar injuries. Tight end Jermichael Finley and safety Sean Richardson both had fusion surgeries. Richardson, who was cleared to return late last season, had his C-5 and C-6 vertebra fused. It is considered safer at that spot because it is lower on the spine and farther away from the base of the skull.
“I think just being the Packers, they’re just very conservative and protective of their players,” Collins said. “I think that’s what it boiled down to. I think he just wasn’t sold on the idea of me taking that chance. A few years later, I know that Richardson, another safety, they cleared him for contact not too long ago. But I think it became more about how close we were, they looked at me as family and really didn’t want to take that chance. That’s what my opinion is about the whole situation.”
That could be a cautionary tale for Finley given that he had the same C-3 and C-4 fusion that Collins did. Unlike Collins, who had another year remaining on his contract when the Packers released him, Finley was in the final year of his deal and is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent next month. Collins said he called Finley to offer whatever support and advice he needed.
“I reached out to him, but I haven’t heard back from him,” Collins said. “I know that he’s doing well and working hard, and I wish him the best.”