GREEN BAY – Mike Neal won’t play in Thursday night’s preseason finale, but the Green Bay Packers second-year defensive end is confident that his knee will be ready for the Sept. 8 regular-season opener against New Orleans.
Neal, who went down in practice on Aug. 16, played only in the exhibition opener at Cleveland before the injury.
“I feel good. I think I’ll be ready for the first game,” said Neal, who missed much of preseason last year with an abdominal strain and played in just two regular-season games as a rookie before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury that required surgery. “That’s what we want to lay our money on. I should be ready to practice next week. I’m not 100 percent sure, but as far as I’m concerned, I’m on a good pace to be able to do some things next week.”
With Neal out, third-year defensive end Jarius Wynn has locked up a roster spot with solid play. He was released on the final cutdown last year but returned a week later when 2007 first-round pick Justin Harrell was lost for the season with a torn ACL in the opener.
Neal, meanwhile, takes offense to the suggestion that he’s injury prone but must prove that the moniker doesn’t fit him.
“I think that’s one of the biggest things for me is staying positive and understanding that there’s a plan for everybody. God’s got a plan for me and I’ll take it,” Neal said. “I think when any player gets hurt, if they want it as bad as I do, they’ll feel the same way. I think that’s just any athlete that’s not satisfied with sitting on the sidelines, having to watch, that wants to contribute, that wants to be a good football player. If you want it as bad as I do, you’ll feel that way. I think just having a positive outlook on it makes everything that much easier.”
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