The Green Bay Packers, who will try to defend their Super Bowl championship without standout defensive end Cullen Jenkins, received a major scare at Tuesday’s practice when second-year end Mike Neal went down during a noncontact drill.
Coach Mike McCarthy did not have an update on Neal’s condition after practice, including whether he’d need an MRI. Neal’s feet got tangled while working with the defensive linemen on the side during a special teams period. McCarthy admittedly felt “nervous” after seeing the reaction of some special teams players who were working on the main field.
Neal was working the position drill with B.J. Raji, who said he didn’t see what happened and called it a “freak” injury.
“Everybody knew about it pretty fast,” fellow defensive end Ryan Pickett said. “Everybody knows how vital he is to our success this year. So, that got around real quick. Everybody breathed a sigh of relief when he got up and started walking. Hopefully, he’s fine.”
That Neal eventually got up and walked off under his own power is a good sign but doesn’t necessarily mean much. Safety Morgan Burnett, for instance, tore an ACL last season and played for another dozen snaps. Neal, however, said he has a full range of motion in the knee and will be back soon.
“At first, you don’t know,” Pickett said. “I don’t know if he was in pain but he was in discomfort. He popped up and after a while started saying it was better, then he walked away.”
Neal played in just two games as a rookie, missing the first three games with a sprained muscle near his rib cage and then suffering a shoulder injury that required surgery to his rotator cuff.
Dog days of summer
McCarthy turned up the heat on his players by making them practice in the heat after two weeks of cool-and-comfy night practices. The last two days have been the in the low 80s and under the midday sun.
“It definitely feels like a camp feeling,” Raji said. “We kind of got spoiled with all the night practices and the 60-, 70-degree weather. Now, we’re out there midday and the temperature’s definitely risen a bit. It’s kind of what we need. I kind of thought we were soft with the night practices. I feel like this is what we need as a team.”
McCarthy called these the “dog days” of training camp and a time when the most injuries typically happen. While the lockout — or the “L word,” as McCarthy called it — continues to impact preparations on the season, he says he’s happy with the team’s progress.
“I can’t speak for the other 31 teams, but I’m comfortable where we are but I’m more excited about where we’re going,” he said. “So, there’s a lot of positives of our football team. Really like the makeup of it. We’re going to keep working. The meetings have been great, there’s a lot of energy. I think we’ve laid it out there the last two days on the field in the heat. And that’s what you need. I guess you’d classify this as the dog days of training camp and they’re pushing through it. I’ve been impressed.”
New injuries: TE Spencer Havner (hamstring); S Anthony Levine (possible concussion). T Marshall Newhouse exited briefly after aggravating a shoulder sprain but returned to action.
Still out: WR Shaky Smithson (shoulder), WR Brett Swain (hamstring), S Brandon Underwood (knee), CB Davon House (hamstring), CB Brandian Ross (hamstring), RB James Starks (ankle), G Adrian Battles (Achilles), T Chris Campbell (knee),
Returned: RB Alex Green (quad), DE Chris Donaldson (shoulder), TE Andrew Quarless (groin) and TE Tom Crabtree (ankle).
"I missed a couple of practice and missed a game, and that’s a big thing," Green said. "I’m going to go out there, keep working hard, show what I can do and hopefully play on Friday."
— Levine and cornerback Pat Lee ran into each other while attempting to break up a pass during a seven-on-seven drill. The sound of the collision made the linemen, who were competing in one-on-one pass-rushing drills, take a short break to see what happened. Lee returned to action while Levine walked off for treatment with the aid of trainers.
— Neither of the two-minute drills got close to scoring. With the No. 1 offense against the No. 1 defense, Jordy Nelson dropped a pass on first down, couldn’t haul in an overthrown pass on second down and appeared to drop a pass on third down, though Desmond Bishop might have gotten a finger on it. Aaron Rodgers converted fourth-and-10 with a 13-yard completion to D.J. Williams, but the drive died when Greg Jennings dropped a touchdown pass against Charles Woodson and Rodgers threw incomplete on fourth down. With the backups, Jarrett Bush, who was playing safety because of Levine’s injury, picked off Graham Harrell.
— The tight ends had a sloppy individual period, with Andrew Quarless dropping two passes and Jermichael Finley dropping one and almost another. Finley made up for it later with a great running catch. “The offense didn’t catch the ball very well,” McCarthy said. “We’ve been spending more time with the ball drills before and after practice. We’re doing the best we can to get in as much work as possible.”
— Former Packers safety Atari Bigby agreed to terms with the Seattle Seahawks today following a Monday visit first reported by Scout. For more, click here.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.