NFL Nation: Pat McKenzie

Jermichael FinleyJeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsFree-agent tight end Jermichael Finley has not played since he sustained a bruised spinal cord on Oct. 20 against the Cleveland Browns.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Nothing has changed between the Green Bay Packers and free-agent tight end Jermichael Finley, who is attempting to continue his career following neck fusion surgery last fall, but he is scheduled to meet with team physician Dr. Pat McKenzie for the second time in the last seven weeks.

That meeting will take place today, according to ESPNWisconsin.com.

Perhaps that's why Finley tweeted the following on Thursday morning:

However, an NFL source told ESPN.com that Finley's tweet did not mean the Packers had cleared Finley medically or were in negotiations with him. The source said "there’s nothing going on" with Finley and the Packers in terms of contract talks.

Finley last met with the Packers' medical staff on May 28 in what was described at the time by a source close to the situation as “a formality” because Finley had not checked in with the Packers recently.

According to USA Today, Finley was expected to undergo more tests this week. It is possible Finley's meeting with McKenzie is to review those results.

Finley, 27, has not played since he sustained a bruised spinal cord on Oct. 20 against the Cleveland Browns. That injury left him momentarily without movement or feeling in his extremities. Finley underwent surgery on Nov. 14 to fuse together the C-3 and C-4 vertebrae in his neck. That was the same fusion that former Packers safety Nick Collins had following his 2011 neck injury. The Packers released Collins the following offseason because their doctors, including McKenzie, did not believe it was safe for him to continue his career. Collins has not played since.

The surgeon who performed Finley's fusion, Dr. Joseph Maroon, the Pittsburgh Steelers' doctor, has reportedly cleared Finley for football activities. Since becoming a free agent in March, Finley also has visited the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots, but neither team offered him a contract.

However, according to USA Today, the Steelers offered Finley a contract that he said included "money [that] ain't what it's supposed to be."

Finley, who completed a two-year, $14 million contract, has a disability insurance policy that could pay him $10 million tax free if he is unable to resume his career.

The Packers don't have a clear-cut starter if Finley does not return. However, rookie third-round pick Richard Rodgers was impressive enough during the offseason practices that he is a strong candidate for the job.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Tight end Jermichael Finley is scheduled to meet with the Green Bay Packers' team doctors on Wednesday, but it is not an indication that he is on the verge receiving medical clearance or signing a new contract.

According to a source familiar with the situation, Finley had previous plans to travel to Green Bay with his family, and while in town will check in with Dr. Pat McKenzie and the team's medical staff because he has not seen them recently.

"It's a formality, no testing," the source said. "Nothing more, nothing less."

[+] EnlargeJermichael Finley
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsPackers tight end Jermichael Finley had surgery
in November to fuse two vertebrae in his neck.
Finley is 6 months removed from surgery to fuse two vertebrae in his neck following his season-ending spinal cord contusion against the Cleveland Browns on Oct. 20. The injury left Finley momentarily without movement or feeling. He quickly regained both, but spent several days in an area hospital.

All along, he has expressed a desire to continue his career.

That is why, on Nov. 14, he had the C-3 and C-4 vertebrae in his neck fused. It is the same fusion that former Packers safety Nick Collins had following his 2011 neck injury, and he has not played since. The Packers released Collins the next spring, saying they did not believe it was safe for him to continue playing.

Finley, who has played his entire six-year NFL career with the Packers, is a free agent. Shortly after free agency opened in March, he visited the Seattle Seahawks but did not receive medical clearance from their doctors.

It’s unknown if his own surgeon, Dr. Joseph Maroon, has given him the OK to resume football activities yet. Even if Maroon does so, it does not mean other NFL teams will share his opinion.

The Packers reported for organized team activities on Wednesday. The first day of OTAs typically includes physical exams for the players, which means the team doctors already were scheduled to be at Lambeau Field.

Even if Finley gets a good report, a signing could be days or weeks away. Packers general manager Ted Thompson and his staff are in Florida this week for their scouting annual meetings.

The Packers have a crowded tight end group, but no proven playmaker like Finley. They re-signed Andrew Quarless in free agency and drafted Cal's Richard Rodgers in the third round. They also signed undrafted rookie Colt Lyerla, a talented but troubled prospect who left the Oregon football team last fall.
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Rodgers' injury shows doc-player bond

December, 17, 2013
12/17/13
6:45
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The meeting between Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Dr. Pat McKenzie last Friday could have escalated into an expletive-filled shouting match between a defiant player and the team physician who wouldn't clear him to play.

Except that it didn't.

As badly as Rodgers wanted to play -- and make no mistake about it, he wanted it badly -- he said Tuesday during his ESPN Milwaukee radio show that he never felt any anger toward McKenzie.

[+] EnlargeTony Romo and Aaron Rodgers
AP Photo/David StlukaAs much as Aaron Rodgers wanted to participate in the Packers' win over the Cowboys, he was never angry at team physician Pat McKenzie for not clearing him.
"Sadness definitely," Rodgers said on his show. "Sadness and frustrated but not anger."

Perhaps more than any other injury in recent history, the broken collarbone Rodgers sustained Nov. 4 has provided heretofore unseen insight into the relationship between Packers' players and McKenzie, who has been treating them since 1991.

"I trust him and care about him a lot as a friend and also as somebody who counsels me when I'm injured," Rodgers said of McKenzie. "We've always been able to have honest conversations, and I respect his honesty and that he cares about the guys so much, because he does. And sometimes those guys need to save you from yourself.

"That being said, I'm still a competitor, and I wanted to be out there."

Rodgers and McKenzie will have another meeting Wednesday to determine the quarterback's course of action this week and whether he can return for Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Rodgers said he does not expect to have another scan because he has "an idea what it's going to look like based on the previous one, the amount of days we have between scans [and can] project that forward to a similar amount of days."

The conversation this week might be more about risk-reward than anything else. With two games remaining, the Packers can make the playoffs if they beat the Steelers on Sunday and the Chicago Bears in Week 17.

Despite a scan last Thursday that did not give McKenzie the confidence to clear him, Rodgers said he "felt more like himself" in practice last week. The pain he experienced in practice the previous week did not appear to be a factor.

Rodgers plans to practice again Wednesday.

"This is maybe not be what people want to hear with it being dragged out and stuff, but this is how you have to go about the process because it's a combination of a lot of things," Rodgers said. "Obviously, there's strong opinions on what should happen, but the organization is going to do what's best by me, and I'm going to try to make it at least a conversation [about playing]."

That conversation must have been difficult because last Friday, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said, "Hey, it's not the easiest thing to sit there and tell your franchise quarterback he can't play in the game when he wants to play in the game. This is clearly a decision that's made in the best interest of Aaron Rodgers."

The Packers don't make McKenzie or any of their medical staff members available to the media and each team has a slightly different arrangement with their doctors, but most teams have their physicians on a retainer that is paid by the club. That might seem like an inherent conflict but if the team and the doctor share the goal of keeping the player healthy for the long term, then the relationship works, said a former NFL doctor.

"I think the role is to do what's right and to me, I've never found a conflict," said Dr. David Chao, who served as the San Diego Chargers team doctor for 17 years. "You need to do what's right and what's in the best interest for the player because the team's biggest assets are the players. So you've got to take care of them.

"You have to be honest with them and honest with the team. If you're a bank, your job is take care of the money. If you're a team doctor, your job is to take care of the players. The bank's assets is their money, and the team's assets are the players."

It's commonly known around the league the Packers take a more conservative approach with players returning from injury. Perhaps other doctors would have cleared Rodgers by now, but no doctors could say that for sure unless they were privy to all the information McKenzie has at his disposal.

"I've got a lot of respect and trust in Pat McKenzie, and I think he does an incredible job for us," Rodgers said. "It doesn't mean I'm not going to battle him, though."

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