GREEN BAY – Mike Neal played 13 snaps in Sunday’s 35-26 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Green Bay Packers second-year defensive end didn’t tally a single statistic. No tackles, no assists, no sacks, no quarterback hits, nothing.
No matter. All that mattered was that Neal played. Finally.
Making his season debut after suffering a knee injury during an Aug. 16 training-camp practice, Neal was simply happy to be on the field after missing 27 of a possible 29 games due to injury his first two NFL seasons.
“It had been a while,” Neal said. “Definitely felt good to be out there and get a couple of plays in and just knock some of the rust off and see what I had in me. I feel fine. I’m hungry. That’s about all I’ve got. I’m hungry.”
Neal, who was listed as questionable on the injury report after returning to practice the previous week, said he knew he would be active and see limited action, even though questionable technically means he was 50/50 to play. He figures to play more snaps Thursday at Detroit.
“I knew, I just didn’t say anything. I don’t feel like being held accountable to anybody and answering anybody’s questions during the week,” said Neal, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on the knee on Sept. 13 to clean out loose cartilage. “I knew Thursday, that you practice this week and you practice the full practice, then there’s a great possibility you’re playing. I knew; I just didn’t say anything.”
Neal said he’s not having any problems with knee swelling and that he didn’t worry about his knee during the game.
“Like I’ve said before, I have no fear in it when I’m playing. I don’t even think about it. I don’t have time to think about it,” he said. “I think about it more when I’m walking around now when I’ve got time to feel stuff. But when I’m playing, I don’t even think about it. I can’t feel it.”
And while the numbers didn’t show it, linebacker Clay Matthews said Neal’s impact didn’t go unnoticed.
“I saw one of the snapshots of the game and the pressure he was bringing from the opposite edge was fantastic,” Matthews said. “A guy of his caliber and strength and overall ability is only going to help us out getting pressure on the quarterback and collapsing the pocket.”
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