GREEN BAY, Wis. — Green Bay Packers safety Nick Collins isn't talking like a player who expects to play football again.
The neck injury Collins suffered in Week 2 not only cost him the rest of this season, but has the 28-year-old preparing for a premature end to his NFL career.
"It's been a great ride for me," Collins said Wednesday. "The success that I've had over these past years that I've been here, that's just gratifying enough."
Two months ago, it was a much different story for Collins. He had been to three consecutive Pro Bowls and was coming off a Super Bowl-winning season.
Now, he just wants to get a head start on building his coaching resume — a process that's already begun. Collins has stayed in Green Bay since his injury and has been helping coach the secondary during practice.
"It's giving me a great experience to prepare for when I do decide to retire from this game," Collins said. "I want to become a coach. (Now) I'll have more upside to wherever I go to coach, and they can look at it and say, ‘OK, he was on the sideline doing this, coaching these guys.' It's just uplifting for me."
Collins still acts like a member of the Packers' active roster. He comes into the locker room after practice with all of the players and changes at his same locker.
There aren't even any noticeable differences in Collins physically. He moves around normally and was able to shed his neck brace last Friday.
"I'm free," Collins said, referring to the neck brace being removed. "I'm a free man. I'm out of prison."
He even feels the same.
"I really don't have any pain," Collins said. "That's the crazy thing about this whole situation. Since the injury happened, I really didn't suffer from any pain besides when I had the surgery, and that only lasted for a couple days."
Collins underwent neck surgery in late September and wore a neck brace for about a month.
The biggest difference may be in the tone of his voice. Because the operation was near his larynx, Collins believes it affected the way he talks.
But Collins is able to engage in some physical activity. He's riding bikes, working out on an elliptical machine and even doing some light weightlifting — although no lifting over his head.
Much of that sounds encouraging for a possible return, but it's nothing close to putting on a helmet and laying hits on wide receivers down the middle of the field.
"I just have to take small steps and not try to rush anything," Collins said. "That's all I can do right now. It's going to be a long process. It's going to take time."
Many injured players go through a moment of wondering why they had such bad luck and misfortune. For Collins, that didn't happen right away.
"Once I started going out there on the field, missing the game, being around the players, but where I'm in a position where I can't help those guys, that's when it crossed my mind: ‘Why?'" Collins said.
Though it wasn't the way Collins wanted his season to go, he's already trying to make the best of it. He'll be with the Packers on their trip to San Diego on Sunday and hopes he can continue to travel with the team all season.
"Until they say, ‘We think you need to just take a break, you're kind of interfering with the team,'" Collins said, "I don't think these guys mind me being there. They look at me as a leader. I have a lot of experience, a lot of games under my belt. That's the quality that I have to help these young guys be successful. That's pretty much my role now.
"I get to see the game from a whole different side. It's amazing how fast the game is from not being out there and just on the sideline looking at it."
Its a shame to see this. He is a hell of a player and one of my favorites. Hopefully he will be able to play again someday.
Here is the video of the injury. Its crazy a play like that caused his injury.
It's one of those times when an athlete has to realize "it's just a game". 28 years old with tons of money. He could use it to set up his second career, spend time with wife and kids (if he has them), find new interests. I mean you hate to see the game taken away from a player before they're ready but with a serious injury like that you've gotta put life in perspective.