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Point of Veau: Save Neal for Thanksgiving

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Point of Veau: Save Neal for Thanksgiving

I've made this point on Railbird Central several times now, but also wanted to put it in writing for those who may not catch our podcasts.

It's all about baby steps with Mike Neal.

Many people hope he can be an elixer for a Packers defense that has largely struggled this season despite Green Bay's undefeated record.

And while it appears no one is expecting anything from Neal, he has the chance to be this year's James Starks––a player coming back from injury at midseason just in time to make an impact late in the year.

Neal cleared the first hurdle yesterday by coming back to practice in limited fashion.

And while he hasn't been ruled out for the upcoming game against the Minnesota Vikings, it's more than likely not going to happen.

Neal just needs to continue to make those baby steps. And today is already the obstacle he must overcome. He must respond well to his first action in months and practice on back-to-back days.

Perhaps the primary reason he should not play on Monday Night Football is because of the short turnaround time between that game and the next one the following Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

There's one less day for the rest and recovery needed for the stress Neal would be putting on his surgically repaired knee (in which doctors took out some loose cartilage).

But not playing isn't necessarily a bad thing for Neal if he can just continue to make progress. Maybe by next week he'll be ready to make the jump from limited participation in practice to full participation.

And once again, it's probably not a wise choice for Neal to play against the Bucs on Nov. 20 because of the even shorter timespan between that game the Packers' next game on Thanksgiving against the Detroit Lions.

With only three days between those games, it's barely enough time for any player on the roster to recover, let alone Neal coming off of injury.

So if the Packers target Neal's return for Thanksgiving, which will be an important game in itself as a road contest against a tough Lions team, they will have taken that next baby step by returning to action.

Following the Nov. 24 game at Detroit, the Packers then 10 days until their next game Dec. 4 at the New York Giants.

Maybe by that time, Neal will not only be able to play, he could be ready to start. Again, a baby step.

And after that, maybe he'll be ready to make a big impact. All in time for the stretch run and the playoffs.

Baby steps.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (27) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

bomdad's picture

Counterpoint: Having another effective body on the DL give Raji some rest.

lebowski's picture

There's a great book on Baby Steps by Dr. Leo Marvin

PackersRS's picture

Screw that. Save him for the postseason.

Let's get real here, even without Neal we will end as the #1 seed. Saving for Rodgers not playing multiple games, it's going to happen, be that with a 16-0 or a 14-2.

Let him practice as he is doing to get up to speed with the playbook, but there's no rush to put him on the field whatsoever, if there's a chance he might re-injury himself.

Brian Carriveau's picture

I totally get the sentiment. Perhaps I should have said "Save Neal Until at Least Thanksgiving." I certainly wouldn't argue if it's longer. But you do want him to play in some games before the postseason, as long as he's healthy enough for it. It would be a way to wean him back into action, because if he's healthy and effective, the Packers will want him to be playing a large number of snaps. But that's not going to happen in only his first game back.

PackersRS's picture

That would be the ideal, but the real point here that we're both making I believe is that, if there's risk of re-injuring, don't play. Take as long as it takes.

Brian Carriveau's picture

Yup. If and when he's ready, then play.

chris k's picture

As long as he doesnt hurt himself in practice before then. . .

BTF's picture

I'm all for easing Neal in and I reckon @Detroit is about right for a few snaps at least

For all I have high hopes for him I'd rather see us err firmly on the side of caution.

James Rarick's picture

We can postulate all we want, but the Packers have generally been very cautious with player's health, which is quite impressive. If they say he is ready to go, I think we have to accept that. The Packers are not going to put him in a situation that would increase his chances of future injury.

FITZCORE1252's EVO's picture


BubbaOne's picture

Yes the Lions game would not only give him plenty of time to get ready he would absorb some snaps after the short week.

But Detroit is the only artificial turf the Packers will play on the rest of the season. I'm not sure I want it to be his coming out party.

Brian Carriveau's picture

Good point, and one I hadn't thought about. I suppose the good news would be if he did play in Detroit, he'd have more time to recover after playing on turf.

Of course, it would only be their last game on turf until the Super Bowl in Indy ;)

Bob's picture

I would guess he will make his return after Thanksgiving. When he will get to test his knee in a game on a natural surface.

Brian Carriveau's picture

Of course, he does practice on artificial turf nearly every day.

bomdad's picture

I'd rather have Raji at 100% in the playoffs. Let Neal take the gargbage time snaps and face the non-contenders looking to pop a knee on a cut block.

Nerdmann's picture

They'll definitely have him on a pitch count either way. I'd play him, but ease him along and protect that knee against these shorter intervals between games.

denniseckersly's picture

As unlikely as it is, Detroit still controls their own destiny as far as the division is concerned. If they win out, it's theirs, no matter what.

Neal should play @ Detroit, if he is healthy. He should also play limited snaps against Tampa, in order for him to get settled.

FITZCORE1252's EVO's picture

" Detroit still controls their own destiny as far as the division is concerned."

So do we.

Evan's picture


Seems like an odd thing to say.

denniseckersly's picture

The point is that the Detroit game is important. We have to beat Detroit. If we lose both games to Detroit, then we are relying on help from other teams.

If you are one who prefers to rest players when possible, obviously the Thanksgiving tilt is the most pivotal game as far as that is concerned. If we lose on Thanksgiving, the odds of week 17 having meaning are much greater

denniseckersly's picture

....and therefore, all of our starters, not just Mike Neal, will are less likely to be able to rest in week 16 and 17

Evan's picture

Right. But who is talking about resting starters?

Mojo's picture

And in addition, SF (with 5 out of 8 games within there own crappy division)is only one game behind GB for the number one seed. Still, I'd employ the "as much time as needed" philosophy as long as he's ready to go for the playoffs.

However, it would be nice to give Raji more rest. I still don't know why they don't use Howard Green more. If he's a stiff, why is he on the team?

denniseckersly's picture

If he is cleared to play and he gets hurt again, it won't be because the Packers rushed him in ill-advisedly, it will be because he is a brittle Bob Sanders/Justin Harrell liability with loads of potential and little production.

Asshalo's picture

This guys is a physical freak. Can't wait to see him play.

Norman's picture

My uncle Herman is a physical freak too, but you don't want to see him play, what with the hunchback, cauliflower ears, Marty Feldman eyes and all.

Tommyboy's picture

I tend to agree, but I'm hoping to see him suit up and play 10 snaps or something on Monday. To me, this would suggest they're optimistic he's recovered, but just testing him out. It'd give him a little action, let him get hit (which I'm assuming he's begging for), and evaluate the knee. I definitely don't want to see him in there on a regular rotation on Monday (which I highly doubt would happen anyway).

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