Packers TE Finley promising hard knocks this year
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Jermichael Finley is feeling fine and looking to run over any defender that gets near him.
This is great news for the Green Bay Packers.
Finley has 11 catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns heading into Week 3 at Cincinnati on Sunday. The right knee injury that hampered him in the past is long gone.
"It makes me a dangerous player when I don't have to worry about somebody chopping me in my knee and me tearing something in my knee," Finley said Thursday.
"I ain't got no worries right now. From this point on, it's going to be hard to hit me and bring me down, I promise you that."
Finley had six receptions for 65 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's victory against Washington, including 59 yards after the catch. His signature play was a 27-yard catch-and-run early in the third quarter when he broke three tackles and was so physically dominant that wide receiver James Jones found himself watching instead of blocking.
"I got in trouble for that, too. I was a fan for a minute when he was breaking all those tackles, watching," Jones said. "Unbelievable play. Unbelievable play. Man, that's the type of stuff he does. I tell him, `Man, you should never get tackled by one guy. You should always run through the first defender. I understand you're big, they're coming at your knees and stuff, that's part of the game, but you should never get tackled by one guy.' Once he instills that mindset every play -- look out."
That's how the 6-foot-5, 247-pound Finley played when he had his breakthrough season in 2009. But the next season was cut short by the knee injury, and it took a while for him to return to normal.
Finley worried about his knee throughout the 2011 season. That season, like this one, was a contract year for him, and by his own admission, his concerns about being hit low altered the way he played.
Finley started showing his willingness to get physical last season, when he set a franchise record for receptions by a tight end with 61 catches for 667 yards. But it wasn't until the second half of the season, especially on a 40-yard catch-and-run at Detroit on Nov. 18, when Finley truly looked as if the knee wasn't on his mind. Too many times before that game, he had allowed one tackler to take him down.
That was definitely not the case against the Redskins last Sunday.
"That was amazing. That just shows what an incredible play that was," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "It was one of those plays that you are going to remember.
"He has been playing well. He's just been carrying over the things he has been doing at practice and the game. You play well in practice, you practice like you play, and that is going to show up in the game. And Jermichael has been practicing really, really well for that last year and a half and it is no surprise he is playing so well on Sundays."
Finley put more bulk to his frame after slimming down before the 2011 season to play more like a wide receiver than a tight end. According to STATS LLC, 116 of Finley's 121 yards this season have come after contact.
"That's when he's most effective -- when he has the ball in his hands and has a little bit of cushion to work a defender and just decide whether he wants to lower his shoulder and be physical or outrun them," Packers tight end coach Jerry Fontenot said. "He's got a lot of weapons to use. The more that we can get him in those kinds of situations, then the more successful that this team can be."
For Finley, it's merely a matter of keeping the momentum he generated on that memorable play against Washington.
"It was a crazy play," he said. "I've done it once before in high school, broke all of those tackles, but to do it in the NFL where every tackle is a violent tackle and a must tackle, it's hard to do that in this league.
"I'm great right now. I feel awesome, better than I've ever felt."
NOTES: Running back Eddie Lacy (concussion) missed his second straight day of practice but coach Mike McCarthy wasn't ready to rule him out for Sunday, holding out hope Lacy would be cleared to practice Friday. If Lacy can't go and fullback John Kuhn (hamstring) is sidelined as well, the Packers would go into the game with just two running backs -- James Starks and rookie Johnathan Franklin. . Safety Morgan Burnett (hamstring) did not practice at all Thursday after doing some work Wednesday, and McCarthy acknowledged Burnett is "a long shot" to play against the Bengals. . If Kuhn can't play, McCarthy will use tight ends as fill-ins at fullback, particularly Andrew Quarless.
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
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