It took five years for Jermichael Finley to become the player the Green Bay Packers always hoped he would be, so it would be foolish for anyone to expect Brandon Bostick, a former receiver from tiny Newberry College and undrafted free agent in 2012, to be his replacement right away.

Finley attended the University of Texas and played in front of hostile crowds as large as 88,000 during his two seasons with the Longhorns. He played on the same fields with Ndamukong Suh, Russell Okung, Andy Dalton and Michael Crabtree.

Bostick played at 4,000-seat Setzler Field in Newberry, S.C. He played on the same team as defensive back Ron Parker, who has been with four NFL teams and has six tackles in 10 games with the Kansas City Chiefs this year.

Based on those differences, it might take 50 years for Bostick to become the player the Packers hope he will be.

The truth is, however, Bostick could very well be the team's future at tight end given the likelihood that Finley will not return to the team next season. Finley suffered a herniated disc in his neck and is recovering from single-level fusion surgery, according to a report.

The Packers would not clear safety Nick Collins after he had vertebrae fused at the C-3, C-4 level, which is reportedly the same area where Finley had his. The spinal surgeon the Packers trust the most, Los Angeles-based Robert Watkins, has told other surgeons he won't clear players to return to the field when one of the fused discs is C-3 or higher.

It doesn't mean Finley, a free agent after this season, can't resume his career. There are doctors — including Joseph Maroon, who performed the surgery on Finley — who believe it's perfectly safe to return from single-level fusion surgery at C-3, C-4 if a number of criteria are met.

But the chances of the Packers clearing Finley seem very low.

The Packers also have Andrew Quarless and Ryan Taylor to fill the void Finley has left, but neither of them has the Finley-like athletic qualities that Bostick does. The 6-3, 255-pound tight end ran faster and jumped higher than Finley coming out of college and has people pondering the limits of his ability.

"I think there's a lot of potential there," receiver James Jones said. "No. 1, he's extremely fast for his position. He has great hands and if he can just get it in his mind that nobody can stop him, and go out there and play the way he plays at practice, he's going to become a great player because he has all the tools."

The Packers have seen glimpses of it.

They saw it Sunday against the New York Giants when Bostick beat safety Ryan Mundy off the line of scrimmage, caught a deep crossing route from quarterback Scott Tolzien, absorbed a shot to the ribs from 207-pound safety Will Hill, and then stiff-armed linebacker Jon Beason on his way to the sideline.

"My lower body is stronger than my upper body," Bostick said Thursday. "I definitely have strong legs. I know I had more yards to get, but he (Hill) knocked the wind out of me so I just ran out of bounds. I definitely could have gotten more yards."

It was a very Finley-esque move — at least Finley 2013. Had Bostick gone down on Hill's hit it would have been a 20-yard gain. Instead, it was a 26-yard gain.

Bostick showed the same physical nature against Philadelphia the week before on a 22-yard touchdown pass in which he bowled over cornerback Roc Carmichael at the goal line. He caught two other passes for 20 yards, but his most impressive play might have been running down cornerback Brandon Boykin 76 yards downfield after Boykin intercepted Tolzien in the end zone.