GREEN BAY – It can at times be difficult to discern exactly what Jermichael Finley is trying to say.
Because the Green Bay Packers talkative tight end is more open with the media than any player on the roster and because he is unfiltered in his conversations with reporters – not to mention the fact that there’s faction of Packers fans who want to believe the worst about him – his headline-grabbing quotes aren’t always taken the way they were intended.
That seemed to be the case following one of the team’s organized team activity practices this offseason, when Finley held court at his locker and talked about his plans for the 2012 season.
“The next step is (to) take my game to the next level. Detail everything, and just play my ball,” Finley said. “I feel like I’ve been playing like a robot lately. I just need to get out there and freestyle it.”
Asked what he meant by “freestyle,” Finley replied: “Play fast, not count my steps, not worrying about how the defense is playing me or what the defense is doing and just do me. If I do me, it can take my game to the next level. That’s where I struggle. I get out there and think too much. If I let my game speak for itself, I can take this league over at the position. If you go out there with too much on your head, it can mess up your game.”
What it sounded like Finley was saying was that he was going to go out and do whatever he wanted in the Packers offense. What he was trying to say was the exact opposite.
When Finley spoke of how he had to “detail everything” and “play fast, not count my steps” and not “go out there with too much on (my) head,” he was actually disclosing his plans to do some good things: Improve his preparation and get a better grasp of the playbook. And when Finley said, “Me and the QB didn't have chemistry; the routes were off sometimes,” he didn’t intend for it to sound like he was blaming quarterback Aaron Rodgers for his mistakes, but rather that he needs to do his part to develop a better rapport with NFL MVP.
Those are all things the Packers need him to do to become the elite tight end he’s capable of being, and Finley is right about this: He’s at his best when he isn’t doing too much thinking on the field. Ask any coach about any player, and he’ll say that players are better when they know the scheme and their assignments so well that they can think less and react more. And that’s what Finley is aiming for.
If he succeeds, he could move into the Rob Gronkowski-Jimmy Graham-Antonio Gates-Vernon Davis echelon of tight ends instead of aspiring to join that group. Although he tied his career high for receptions (55) and set career bests for receiving yards (767) and touchdown receptions (eight), Finley viewed the season as a failure. Last season, 13 tight ends caught more passes than Finley, with seven catching at least 75 passes and four tallying 900 receiving yards or more.
Also, according to STATS, Finley had 11 drops on 92 targets (12 percent) last season. In contrast, Gronkowski had five drops on 124 targets and Graham had five drops on 149 targets.
If Finley, whose drop rate before last season was roughly 5 percent, can do all the things he says he wants to do this season, he could make the Packers’ already explosive offense unstoppable – something he’s also famous for saying.
“Our main focus (with Finley) is getting in-tune with the offense and what’s being asked of every player within the system,” tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot said. “It’s all good stuff.”
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