Updated 1:30 p.m. ET, Wednesday, April 25
The Packers announced Wednesday that they have released three-time Pro Bowl FS Nick Collins. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Silverstein wrote Wednesday morning that Collins, who underwent a single-level cervical fusion last September, wants to return to the game after recently having tests evaluated by five different neurosurgeons to see if it would be safe for him to return.
But the Packers’ organization had made it clear that there would have to be a total consensus among the team’s higher-ups on Collins’ future, and they decided the risk in bringing him back would be too great.
“From the beginning of this process, we have taken our time and sought numerous medical opinions while maintaining consistent dialogue with Nick,” Packers GM Ted Thompson said. “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 will be 29 in August, suffered his season-ending neck injury in Week Two last season while tackling Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart. He has been out of a neck brace since late October. He also, by all accounts, has been pain-free with the exception of a few days following his surgery. He missed just three games in his first six seasons in the league.
Collins, who was selected by the Packers with the first of two second-round selections (No. 51 overall) in the 2005 NFL draft, went on to appear in 95 games (all starts) at free safety during his seven-year career in Green Bay. During that time, he amassed 498 tackles (388 solo), 21 interceptions, including four returned for touchdowns, 83 passes defensed, five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. In 2010, Collins became the first Packers safety since LeRoy Butler to earn a bid to three consecutive Pro Bowls, and capped his season with a 37-yard INT return for a touchdown in Super Bowl XLV.
The way we see it
It’s widely agreed that the loss of Collins, who had 17 interceptions between 2008-10, is a huge blow to the Packers' secondary. After he went down in Week Two last season, miscommunication and more frequent breakdowns in the defensive backfield immediately began to take their toll. Following in the footsteps of teammate Charles Woodson, Collins was an avid student of the game whose leadership qualities on the field became increasingly essential.
Entering the draft, it would appear that Morgan Burnett, the normal strong safety, would be first on the depth chart at free safety, with youngsters M.D. Jennings and Anthony Levine on the outside looking in. But it hardly would be a shock if the Packers go all out to replace one of their best defenders high in the draft.