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Neal reports to camp lighter, but injured again

Jul. 26, 2013
 
Green Bay Packers defensive end Mike Neal during last year's training camp. File/Press-Gazette Media
Green Bay Packers defensive end Mike Neal during last year's training camp. File/Press-Gazette Media

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The new Mike Neal is lighter and leaner.

Now if he can only shed the old injury-prone label.

The fourth-year pro, who could morph into a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker for the Green Bay Packers this year, failed his pre-training camp physical on Thursday because of an abdominal injury he sustained while working out on his own in the last month.

Though he said he wasnít worried about it turning into a more serious sports hernia injury Ė the same abdominal problem that cost receiver Greg Jennings half the season last year Ė the Packers donít expect him on the practice field for at least the first two weeks of training camp. He was on the sidelines when camp opened this morning.

When he hasnít been injured (he played in only nine games his first two season because of shoulder and knee injuries) or suspended (he served four games last season for violating the leagueís policy on performance enhancing drugs), Neal played strictly defensive end his first three seasons.

But this offseason, Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers decided to toy with the idea of letting Neal rush the quarterback from a two-point stance by essentially playing him as an outside linebacker. In 11 games last season, he had 4Ĺ sacks.

That role is expected to continue when Neal returns. Even before he learned about his new role, Neal had decided to lose weight after he reached 310 pounds shortly after the season. Today, he said heís down to 275. He said he lost the last 15 pounds in a 2Ĺ-week stretch in late March/early April right before the Packers began their offseason program.

ďAbout the time I was coming back they told me they were going to give me a little flexibility and see what you can do,Ē Neal said. ďSo I had about 2 Ĺ weeks left and I was like 290, and I said I might as well lose 10 or 15 pounds.Ē

Neal said he did it by increasing his running exercises while lifting fewer weights and eating a low-carb diet that was heavy on salmon and eggs.

ďItís just one of those things where you train, you train, you train; I think everybody noticed a noticeable difference in my size,Ē Neal said. ďIíve lost a little bit of weight. Iím doing a little more cutting, so for me to have some type of problem with my ab is nothing out of the norm. They realized it. When I came back I told them what it is and they knew what it was before I got back and told me to take my time and easy your way back into it. Donít push anything. Thereís a long season ahead of you. Thatís where we are right now. Iím not even looking at it as a major setback. Iím running around. Iím walking. I feel fine.Ē

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