Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 10/4/12
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Mike Neal feels like a new man. After serving a four-game suspension for a violation of the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances, the third-year Packers defensive end is back with the team and ready for a fresh start."Let's put it this way: It's like letting somebody out of jail before they knew he was innocent," Neal said. "The suspension could have been helped. But it's just like being freed from jail. It's like, 'OK, now it's time for me to live my life and do what I do.' I'm going to do that."Neal, 25, insisted once again that he "didn't do anything wrong" to warrant his suspension, claiming on multiple previous occasions that he began taking physician-prescribed Adderall for attention-deficit disorder. However, with the team and league unaware of Neal's condition when he first began the medication, the NFL took action. Neal appealed his suspension, but it was not overturned."When I first got suspended, I was pretty upset, just with the nature of missing my first two seasons practically (with injuries) and then having to serve the suspension," Neal said. "I kept myself positive and I was able to let it go and I feel good."With Neal back practicing with the Packers this week, the team has been granted a one-week roster exemption. Coach Mike McCarthy now has two potential deadlines by which to make a decision on the defensive end's status. McCarthy, along with general manager Ted Thompson, could opt to activate Neal to the roster by 3 p.m. Saturday. If they choose that route, Neal could play Sunday against the Colts. Otherwise, McCarthy and Thompson have until 3 p.m. Monday to decide if they want to keep Neal on the 53-man roster or release him."I thought Mike looked good today," McCarthy said Thursday. "Obviously, (we'll) evaluate the tape, just like we said at the beginning of the week. We'll take the full week to determine what we do with Mike."McCarthy was especially impressed with Neal's conditioning. That was a focal point for Neal while he was away from the team, training for nearly three weeks in Tampa, Fla."He looks to be in great shape," McCarthy said. "He wasn't winded at all. Fresh legs."The decision of whether to keep Neal could come down to a battle between him and fellow defensive end Phillip Merling. It seems highly likely that Neal will continue his career in Green Bay, especially after Merling was a healthy inactive for last weekend's game against the New Orleans Saints."I never feel like I have to prove anything to anybody but myself," Neal said. "I was able to let a lot of my frustrations go the first two years, and proving to myself that I belong here is one of my biggest things. As long as I can do that, I'm content."Neal, a second-round pick by Green Bay in 2010, has played in only nine games so far in his NFL career. A series of injuries in consecutive seasons have kept him from fulfilling the potential Thompson saw in him as a pass rusher coming out of Purdue."The best I've felt in three years," Neal said. "I can say that without lying or trying to sugarcoat anything, it's the best I've felt in three years. So I'm going to let that carry out."As far as being pressured, frustrated, negative, I let all that stuff go. I'm probably the happiest I've been since I've been here."While Neal was away from the team for the past month, he stayed in communication with several teammates, mostly with linebacker Clay Matthews. Neal didn't watch much of the Packers' actual games, as some conflicted with his sleep schedule and another was on a channel he doesn't receive.But Neal believes he'll be able to pick up right where he left off, which was the preseason finale in which he had perhaps his best game ever in a Packers uniform."No rust," Neal said. "I think that one of the biggest things from this offseason was that I was able to pick up where I left off every time I left. I came into OTAs and felt good, came into training camp and did the same thing and got better. I feel like I'm going to do the same thing now."That's why Neal doesn't want to wait any longer to get on the field for regular-season action. If he's able to impress McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dom Capers enough this week in practice, he may not have to wait."Any competitive person would be like, 'You know what, I'm going to go play,' " Neal said. "So that's who I am. I'm a competitor. I want to play. But if it's not my time, it's not my time."Follow Paul Imig on Twitter
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

WATCH: K-State players storm student section after big win

Tony Dungy coaches his way into Canton

Top eight takeaways from NFL Honors awards

Report: Austin Rivers out 4-6 weeks with broken hand

Brett Favre Hall of Fame discussion took less than 10 seconds

WATCH: Pop wishes Kobe well in heartfelt message

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Eric Berry named NFL Comeback Player of the Year

Cam Newton to be named NFL MVP

Ezekiel Elliott hung out with Jim Brown

Rickie Fowler taunted by fans over his ex-girlfriend

Roger Goodell speaks about future of Pro Bowl in annual address

Mike Krzyzewski provides an update on his health

Another star confirmed for Super Bowl 50 halftime show

WATCH: Wayne Simmonds loses his cool, earns match penalty

Winners and losers from 2016 Hall of Fame vote

Brett Favre, Tony Dungy headline Hall of Fame Class of 2016

Terrell Owens says he was not elected to Hall of Fame

Bruins prospect hit in throat with puck, taken to hospital

WATCH: Mavs rookie laughed at for trash talking Spurs bench

Norris Cole has No. 30 retired with LeBron James, New Orleans Pelicans in attendance

Three keys to victory for the Broncos in Super Bowl 50

Torrey Smith: ‘This is probably the best offense’ for Kaepernick

Byron Scott thought D’Angelo Russell would be further along

Under-the-radar Super Bowl 50 matchups

Is Tim Lincecum's run with the San Francisco Giants done?

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The 14 biggest plays in Super Bowl history

Five outrageous predictions for Super Bowl 50

QUIZ: Name the winning starting quarterback from every Super Bowl

The top six matchups that could decide Super Bowl 50

Seven unheralded players set to make major impacts in SB 50

10 underrated performances in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest

X-factors in Super Bowl 50

NHL nightmare: No Canadian teams in playoff hunt

QUIZ: Name the Super Bowl halftime performers since 1991

Manziel's father fears for QB's life

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker