By all early indications, both Green Bay Packers cornerback Sam Shields and linebacker Mike Neal averted significant knee injuries during the first quarter of Sunday’s 23-20 playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
Both were carted off the field and are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents after the season. Any surgeries or long-term rehabs could have dealt a serious blow to their value on the open market.
Neal said he injured a knee on a cut block in the first quarter, but the initial diagnosis revealed no structural damage.
Neal was scheduled to have an MRI later in the day, but added that he “damn sure” would have tried to play on it Sunday after playing through an abdominal injury for most of the season.
The Packers converted the defensive lineman to an outside linebacker this season and he responded with 47 tackles and five sacks. He also played in all 16 games for the first time in his NFL career.
“People didn’t think could do that,” Neal said. “I proved a lot of stuff to myself. Really in my heart I was at peace. I just hoped we could pull it out, because if we did I was going to try to play again next week.”
Shields rolled his left knee on the first defensive play and wasn’t able to put much weight on his leg as he was helped off the field.
After Shields tweeted late Sunday that the injury wasn’t significant, an NFL source confirmed MRI results revealed Shields sustained only a bone bruise. It might have been enough to knock him out of the Packers’ postseason plans, but it likely comes as a relief to Shields that it wasn't a torn ligament.
Shields was operating under a one-year restricted tender worth $2 million. The Packers continued negotiations with him and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, but didn’t agree to terms on a new contract.
An undrafted free agent in 2010, Shields led the defense with four interceptions, along with a career-high 61 tackles and 17 pass deflections this season.
In other injury developments, tight end Brandon Bostick was on crutches with a boot on his left foot after undergoing surgery to repair a broken fifth metatarsal bone. He said he’s two weeks into the four-week recovery period before the boot can come off.
Cornerback James Nixon confirmed he had surgery in November for meniscus damage, an injury he also sustained during his senior year of high school but to a lesser degree. He’s still in midst of the rehab process.
Backup quarterback Seneca Wallace had surgery to repair the left abductor in his groin. A common injury in baseball, Wallace said he had both abductors cut and reattached during the procedure, so it wouldn’t happen again.
Wallace was out of the NFL in 2012 before signing with the Packers before the regular-season opener to back up Aaron Rodgers. He was inured at the end of the first series in his first start against Philadelphia on Nov. 10.
Wallace will be 34 in August, but still plans on playing.
“I definitely want to keep going,” he said. “It’s like anything else. At some point it has to come to an end. I had a long career, but hopefully it’s not over yet.”