Notebook: Pennel eager to return after suspension

Michael Cohen, and Ryan Wood
Packers News
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Green Bay Packers defensive end Mike Pennel (64) tries to grab Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) at University of Phoenix Stadium December 27, 2015.

GREEN BAY - The second suspension for Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Mike Pennel was lifted earlier this week, and he is eligible to play Sunday against the New York Giants should the team decide to activate him.

Pennel, a third-year player from Colorado State-Pueblo, initially was suspended for the first four games of the year after violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy during the offseason. The Packers activated him in time for Week 6 against the Dallas Cowboys, and Pennel played in each of the next eight games.

But on Dec. 6 the league announced Pennel was to be suspended for a second time, again for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. The suspension began immediately and expired Monday, at which point the Packers were given a roster exemption that lasts a week. They are not obligated to make a decision about Pennel until after Sunday's game against the Giants.

"I mean anytime you spend time away from your dream is going to obviously be a difficult time," Pennel said Wednesday in his first interview since the suspension was lifted. "Working through it, it was nothing that the front office or the team could do. It was something that I had to work through internally and hopefully I put that all behind me.

"Through this whole process I had to sit down and realize, you know, (if) I wanted to continue my career and play for as long as I can, or do I want to shorten it by doing something off the field that has nothing to do with the team or anything on the field at all. I think that moment has passed, so I'm going to put it behind me."

As with his first suspension, Pennel declined to offer details about the nature of his violation. However, he did say this second offense was not the same issue that triggered the first.

Before the suspension was announced, Pennel had filed a lawsuit in Ohio federal court asking the NFL to appoint a third arbitrator for his disciplinary hearing, according to to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Pennel alleged in court documents that the league and its general counsel "failed to abide by the arbitrator selection and assignment provisions and procedure set forth in the attached arbitration agreement” after they learned of his suspension in early November.

Pennel could have been suspended between six and 10 games for a second violation of the substance-abuse policy.

"Any time you're out for half the season not due to injury, that's a real disappointment for your fans, your family, your teammates, the coaches," Pennel said. "I think it just speaks volumes to the organization, even though these things happen, they came and talked with me and still were supportive through this whole situation. Now it's — I almost feel the urge to get back with my play style, my work ethic. I plan to do that.

"(The year) 2016 wasn’t too good of a year, but I’m just glad I got playing time in there and in the games I did play I found some success. Coming from the beginning of training camp and working so hard to come back, missing out on eight games, that’s a disappointment for anyone. Hopefully just put it behind me and continue my career."

Cobb hopeful: Randall Cobb said his sprained ankle “felt good” moving around at practice Wednesday, and the Packers receiver is hopeful to return this weekend.

Cobb participated in individual drills and team reps at practice, his first in almost two weeks. He has missed each of the Packers' past two games, hoping rest will help him be healthy for the playoffs.

“The exciting thing,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said, “is we get Randall back this week hopefully. He's a big part of our success and our offense. He's just another weapon for us out there."”

Cobb said he “expected” to play Sunday at the Detroit Lions. Instead, he was inactive. It has been another injury-filled season for Cobb, who missed a late-October game at the Atlanta Falcons.

“Very difficult (to sit out),” Cobb said. “Very frustrating, but that’s the way it went. It’s part of this game, but I’m excited to get back out on the field.”

No more nostalgia: Twice already this season, New York Giants coach Ben McAdoo has had a homecoming.

The former Packers offensive assistant brought his team to Lambeau Field in October. McAdoo, who grew up in western Pennsylvania, also coached the Giants at the Pittsburgh Steelers in December.

The Giants lost both games. So, no thank you, McAdoo doesn’t want to dwell on nostalgia this week.

“I’ve had two homecomings,” McAdoo said. “One in Green Bay, and one in Pittsburgh. And neither went well. I’m not going to spend much time talking about the homecomings.”

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said it’s beneficial to have faced their former assistant’s team already. By this point, any sentimentalities have worn off.

“I think it's good that we've played already,” McCarthy said. “It's probably good for him also. But this is about beating the Giants. Every coach in this business, especially in the NFL, understands that it's so competitive, it's so hard to get in this spot. And, yes, you want good things to happen to your close friends and so forth in the business, but … this is about winning the game.”

Back in town: The Packers signed cornerback Keith Baxter to the practice squad Wednesday. Baxter takes the place of cornerback Herb Waters, who was promoted to the active roster the same day.

Baxter was a member of the Packers' practice squad once before in late October. He was signed on Oct. 25 and released two days later.

Baxter played at Marshall and spent the summer with the Minnesota Vikings.

Injury report: ILB Joe Thomas (back), OLB Julius Peppers (rest) and RB James Starks (concussion) did not practice Wednesday.

Cobb (ankle), LB Jayrone Elliott (hand), G T.J. Lang (foot) and LB Nick Perry (hand) were limited.

For the Giants, DE Jason Pierre-Paul (core muscle) did not practice and is unlikely to play this weekend. TE Jerell Adams (shoulder), S Nat Berhe (concussion), CB Janoris Jenkins (back), DE Owa Odighizuwa and CB Coty Sensabaugh (ankle) were limited.

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