When Mike Neal started hearing his name being lumped in with some of the Green Bay Packers’ more recent busts last offseason, the 6-foot-3, 294-pound defensive lineman did his best to not let it bother him.
This season, Neal has finally started to overcome the injury-prone label he’s carried through his first two NFL seasons while showing the natural explosiveness and strength that garnered the Packers’ attention three years ago.
As we wrote in our Thursday main story, Neal leads the Packers’ defensive line with 4˝ sacks among 18 total pressures, which ranks second on the unit to Raji’s 21 although Neal has played 364 fewer snaps this season.
Outside of a small scare three weeks ago with his shoulder, Neal has avoided the injuries that limited him to only nine games over his first two NFL seasons, along with casting aside the pressure that burdened him as a rookie.
“The funny thing is I put a lot of pressure on myself,” Neal said. “I mean they knew what my situation was coming into last year, but I put so much pressure on myself to perform because I kind of read into what we’ve been talking about, not being able to let go of what people are saying. People calling me a bust, injury prone and it was one of those things I couldn’t let go of so I wanted to play so well that I was actually playing worse.”
You can read the rest of our profile of Neal here: http://tinyurl.com/ctttdb8
*In our Packers notebook, Press-Gazette reporter Pete Dougherty looks at the flaws in the current structure of how the Pro Bowl balloting is conducted with a few interesting thoughts from defensive tackle B.J. Raji (http://tinyurl.com/ceq38r9).