Devastating: Underrated Nick Collins season over
By Rob Demovsky, Green Bay Press-Gazette
~The full extent of safety Nick Collins’ neck injury might not be known for several days or even weeks, but the Green Bay Packers knew enough to end his season on Monday.
A day after the Pro Bowl safety was wheeled off the field at Bank of America Stadium and then spent the night in a Charlotte, N.C. hospital, the Packers announced that Collins would miss the rest of the season.
Whether his career is in jeopardy remains to be seen.
The team declined to reveal any specifics about Collins’ injury, but one of his agents, Alan Herman, told the Press-Gazette that the 28-year-old did not sustain any broken bones or have any damage to his spinal cord.
“We know he didn’t break his back, he didn’t break his neck and he has full feeling in all of his limbs,” Herman said on Monday. “He can run around and do whatever he wants to do right now. There’s no lingering effect from the impact yesterday. He’s got a headache, but he’s physically able to go.
“The MRI supposedly tells a different story, but we haven’t seen the MRI. We haven’t seen the report of the MRI, but they felt from the doctors that saw him in Carolina and obviously the team doctor, the best thing for him to do for this year is to shut him down and protect him. But there’s nothing there; there’s no break. I’m assuming there’s some kind of disc involvement, but we don’t know that for a fact, either.”
Herman said he was still awaiting copies of the MRI and doctors’ reports and would have those sent to specialists at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, where Herman is based.
“We’ll have him evaluated by those guys, and then we’ll be able to make a decision in terms of what lies ahead for him future wise,” Herman said.
If Collins does indeed have a disc injury, he may need surgery that could pose long-term problems. Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning is currently dealing with a herniated disc that has left him out indefinitely.
Working in Collins’ favor is he doesn’t have the pre-existing condition stenosis, according to Herman. Stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal that protects the spinal cord. Three former Packers players — Gary Berry, Terrence Murphy and Jeremy Thompson — all were forced to retire after sustaining neck injuries because they also had stenosis.
“You never take it lightly, that’s for sure,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said when asked if Collins’ injury is career-threatening. “I think it’s really too early in the evaluation process to make those kinds of statements. It’s something he’s definitely going to miss the season over.”
Collins’ injury didn’t appear to be a violent one. It happened early in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 30-23 win at Carolina. Collins dove to tackle running back Jonathan Stewart, who tried to leap over Collins. In the process, the top of Collins’ helmet hit Stewart’s leg, and Collins appeared to jam his neck. He spent several minutes face down on the field until he was rolled over, placed on a board and then taken off on a stretcher with wheels.
Collins never lost feeling or movement, giving the Packers reason initially to be optimistic that he would be able to play again this season. But after more tests were done in Charlotte, their concerns grew.
When he returned to Green Bay on Monday afternoon, he briefly met with some of his teammates to inform them he would be lost for the season.
“He has a neck brace on, he’s in dress clothes and he’s walking around now,” McCarthy said. “You would never know he has a serious injury.”
The free safety spot now will be handed over to sixth-year veteran Charlie Peprah, who started most of last season after Morgan Burnett sustained a season-ending knee injury in Week 4. Now, Peprah will team with Burnett in the back end of the defense.
Moving veteran cornerback Charles Woodson to safety is unlikely. The Packers tried it for three games in 2008, when injuries hit, but they prefer his versatility at corner, where he can both cover on the perimeter and blitz from the slot. To do that, they need cornerback Tramon Williams back. He missed the Panthers’ game because of a bruised shoulder and isn’t a lock to play Sunday at Chicago.
Peprah held up well last season. He received praise for being assignment sure and helping with the defensive calls.
“Just take the same approach I did last year,” Peprah said. “I’m going to try to do the best that I can, and hopefully that will be more than enough to get back to where we were last year.”
On Sunday, Peprah was partially responsible for the 62-yard completion to Steve Smith in the fourth quarter that set up the Panthers’ final touchdown. Peprah was supposed to be Woodson’s deep help, but didn’t play deep enough.
“(Smith) ran through our coverage and Cam (Newton), with his arm strength, he made a heck of a throw,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “But you’d like to stay over the top with both defenders.”
The Packers also will have to sign another safety. Rookie M.D. Jennings, an undrafted free agent, is the only other safety on the roster, and he played exclusively on special teams against Carolina. Perhaps the best candidate is Brandon Underwood, who was released by the Packers on Sept. 3, but there was no word as of Monday evening whether the Packers had reached out to him.