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So far, so good for Mike Neal

Oct. 28, 2012
 

Admit it, you were thinking that when Mike Neal dropped out of last Sunday’s game at St. Louis, it was the same old Mike Neal, the oft-injured third-year defensive end.

Before this season, Neal had played in only nine regular-season games in his first two NFL seasons due to myriad injuries.

But there was Neal back in the game against the Rams in the second half, no problems with his right knee — which by the way wasn’t the same knee that he had surgery on last season to remove loose chunks of cartilage, an injury that rendered him ineffective when he did play last year.

“If you look at (the right knee), I’ve got a big old nasty bruise on it,” Neal said. “I did it in the Indianapolis game, and I bumped it (against the Rams), and it went a little numb.”

After sitting out the second quarter, Neal returned in the second half. In just his third game of the season — he missed the first four while serving an NFL suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing drugs — Neal took on an even greater role. He played in all the Packers’ sub packages, including serving as the lone down lineman in the Bat defense, a 1-4-6 alignment.

Neal has made five tackles, four quarterback hits and has one sack in three games.

“I can’t complain, I’m playing and I feel like I’m playing better than I have in the past,” Neal said. “I feel more efficient at what I’m doing.”

He has been particularly effective when teaming inside with rookie Jerel Worthy in the nickel and dime.

“He gives us another athletic guy out there that has some acceleration off blocks and some quickness and combine that with his strength,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “I like with Jerel Worthy and with Mike in there, it gives us two guys that I think have some explosiveness to them. We just need to keep them coming. Our pass rush is significantly better than it was last season.”

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