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Neal surprised to line up at linebacker

May 21, 2013
 

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Green Bay Packers defensive end Mike Neal during training camp in August 2012. File/Press-Gazette Media

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The Green Bay Packers have always been interested in finding different ways to utilize players in Dom Capers’ 3-4 defense.

During the first portion of the organized team activities open to the media on Tuesday, that called for 6-foot-3, 294-pound defensive end Mike Neal lining up at outside linebacker and dropping back into coverage during a portion of the team’s 7-on-7 drills.

The Packers were without second-year reserve Dezman Moses because of an unknown ailment, so it simply could be they were trying to give Clay Matthews, Nick Perry and the rookie reserves a rest.

However, Neal also could be an interesting option to line up in the two-point stance even though the Packers often look for their outside linebackers to be in the 250- to 270-pound range.

Neal said he’s spoken with Capers, outside linebacker coach Kevin Greene and defensive line coach Mike Trgovac about lining up outside, but wasn’t sure what the plan was moving forward.

“They haven’t told me anything. I haven’t talked to anybody,” said Neal, who led the Packers’ defensive line with 4˝ sacks last season despite being suspended the first four games of last season.

“This is OTAs. It’s just them getting a feel for something. If I knew I would tell you. I have no clue.”

A second-round pick in 2010, Neal's first two seasons in Green Bay were plagued by injury, but right now, said he’s feeling the best he has as a Packer.

As for the test run at outside linebacker, Neal feels he’s light enough to play the position occasionally while still contributing on the defensive line.

“I’m comfortable in my athletic ability,” Neal said. “I do believe that for a defensive lineman – not only do I have defensive lineman skills but I think that, as far as me athletically, I think that I can do that. I mean as long as I’m going forward, even if it’s dropping into coverage, I’ve never doubted my athletic ability. I feel a lot more agile than I have in the past.”

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