GREEN BAY – For all the talk about how the Green Bay Packers entered the postseason healthier than they’d been all year, that suggestion ignored one very important caveat: It didn’t include three-time Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins, whose absence may have been one of the biggest reasons for the team’s defensive ineptitude.
With his replacement, Charlie Peprah, struggling during Sunday’s 37-20 NFC Divisional Playoff loss to the New York Giants, and Collins forced to simply watch it happen from the sideline, it was natural to wonder how different the defense might’ve been had Collins not suffered a career-threatening neck injury on Sept. 18 at Carolina.
“I could have (made a difference), but I wasn’t out there,” Collins said afterward. “But my presence was there. I was out there with my team, cheering them on, just trying to give them confidence to try to win the game. We fell short.”
The Packers defense could have to get used to life without Collins, who said Sunday that he’ll meet with doctors sometime in March to assess whether the spinal fusion surgery performed in the fall sufficiently protects him from serious risk if he plays football again. If doctors determine that despite neck-strengthening rehabilitation he’s at too great of risk to suffer paralysis if hit the wrong way again, he’ll be forced to retire.
“From here, I go back home, start working out, try to get my neck stronger, and hopefully in March when I go get my last evaluation from the doctors and team doctors, hopefully they’ll give me some good news,” Collins said. “This is tough for me, because I never pictured myself being in this position – having to plan for, either I’m coming back or I’ve got to retire. This is tough. And hopefully I don’t have to end it this way. But at the end of the day, I want to be able to walk away from this game on my own.”
Collins said he definitely wants to continue his career if doctors clear him, but the married father of four is also at peace with the idea that his NFL playing days are over.
“That’s easy. That’s a no-brainer,” Collins said. “When your kids grow up and they get into sports, you want to be there for them, cheering them on. And I’d rather do that rather than being in a wheelchair. I don’t want to be like that. I want to be there for my kids, my family.”
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