Rather than take a chance and allow safety Nick Collins to return to the football field, the Green Bay Packers told him Wednesday morning that he was being released.
Later in the morning, GM Ted Thompson made it official and announced the veteran’s release.
“From the beginning of this process, we have taken our time and sought numerous medical opinions while maintaining consistent dialogue with Nick, “Thompson said in a statement. “In the end, we were not comfortable clearing him to play again. As with all of our players, Nick is a member of our family and we thought of him that way as we came to this conclusion.
“Nick is a part of our core, and this is a very difficult day for all Packers. Making this kind of decision is never easy, especially when it involves someone like Nick Collins. He has meant so much to the community, his teammates and the organization. He is a good man and will always be part of the Packers family.”
Collins, who underwent a single-level cervical fusion last September, has not officially decided he will return to the game. He recently had tests evaluated by five different neurosurgeons to see if it would be safe for him to return.
But Collins definitely wants to play if it’s deemed he’s able to go back out on the football field. The Packers don’t appear to want him to return to the game at all; otherwise they wouldn’t have released him.
Collins ruptured a disk in his neck in Week 2 of last season and underwent fusion surgery where the disk is removed and replaced with a bone graft from his hip. A titanium plate is then screwed into the two vertebrae, in this case it was C-3 and C-4, to hold them together.
There have been numerous cases of players returning to the game from fusion surgery and a recent Journal Sentinel story reported that a number of neurosurgeons believe it’s safe to play again after the surgery. In no cases has a player suffered paralysis from the injury, but some players have suffered herniated disks above or below the disk they injured.
Collins was due to make $4.05 million in salary and bonuses this season. The Packers will gain $3.05 million under their salary cap, giving them roughly $12 million of cap space heading into the draft.
The Packers gained $5.5 million when they released left tackle Chad Clifton on Monday.
The big question remaining with Collins is whether he’ll play football again. Collins is still in the process of making a decision, but all along he has expressed a strong desire to play. Once he is released, Collins will become a free agent and able to sign with any team in the league.
He is not subject to the waiver system because he is a vested veteran.
There may be teams who see the risk factor differently than the Packers and are willing to let him play. But any team that does will certainly pore over all the medical reports to see what the risk factor is. The Packers had wanted there to be a consensus among all the doctors that it was safe for Collins to return.
Neurosurgeon Frank Camissa in New York performed the surgery on Collins Sept. 30.
In eight seasons, the 5-11, 207-pound Collins was elected to three straight Pro Bowls from 2008-’10. He has 419 tackles, 21 interceptions for 507 return yards and four touchdowns in his career. He was a second-round draft choice of the Packers out of Bethune-Cookman in 2005, Thompson’s first draft.
By Tom Silverstein of the Journal Sentinel