Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 12/7/11
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It took more than an entire year for Packers defensive end Mike Neal to get back on the field after dealing with a variety of injuries throughout most of his first two seasons in the NFL. Since his return from a knee injury in Week 11, coach Mike McCarthy hasn't expected Neal to be playing at the same level as his teammates. "Mike's just getting ready to finish training camp; that's kind of the body clock he's on right now," McCarthy said of Neal. "He's just rusty." Neal has played 73 snaps in his three games this season and has not recorded any tackles or sacks. Statistics on Pro Football Focus have Neal with one missed tackle, one quarterback hit and one quarterback pressure. Neal, a second-round pick by the Packers in 2010, obviouslyisn't satisfied with those numbers. "I want to be way more productive," Neal said. "A lot of people know me and how hard I am on myself. I've got a lot of people telling me, especially coaches, Calm down. It's going to come.' I'm the type of person that one bad play determines my outcome and my mood, so I'm just trying to settle down and do what I can." Neal's teammates have noticed how the 24-year-old reacts to disappointing plays and are working with him to learn to let them go. "He's his harshest critic," defensive lineman Ryan Pickett said. "You try to just tell him, Hey, man, it's only your second game back. Just keep going. Everybody else got such a jump on you.' He just got back this year and missed nearly all of last year. He's got a lot of catching up to do. "He's so hard on himself. We just try to keep him motivated because the guy can play and we definitely need him. He's going to be a great player for us." Neal played in only two games as a rookie last season, recording one sack and three tackles. An injury to his right shoulder then landed him on injured reserve as Green Bay went on to become Super Bowl XLV champions. This season during training camp, Neal was in line to take the starting defensive end spot that was open due to Cullen Jenkins signing with the Philadelphia Eagles. But Neal suffered an injury to his knee that caused cartilage damage and it was unclear whether he would return to the field at all this season. Though he has made it back from that injury, 61 of Neal's 73 snaps have been on passing downs and has primarily only played in long third-down situations. "You can't just throw me out there and expect me to be 100 percent on 10 run plays," Neal said. "They're working my way back into it. I did a little bit of run plays (6) in the game (against New York) and I did pretty good on some, and some I did pretty bad on." Neal was so frustrated with his play in the Packers' win on Thanksgiving over the Lions that he went directly to Lambeau Field after landing in Green Bay so he could watch film. "It's ridiculous; I remember after the Detroit game, (teammates) were looking at me like, It's OK. Calm down,'" Neal said. Neal, who recorded five sacks in each of his final two college seasons at Purdue, can be a difference-maker in the passing game when healthy. That is an aspect that has been missing this season with Jenkins and his 7.0 sacks from last season now in Philadelphia. That has caused more attention by opposing offensive linemen to be given to Clay Matthews, whose sack numbers are down from 13.5 last season to six so far in 2011. "He's a big, strong disruptive guy that we could definitely use," Matthews said of Neal. "Especially with the push up the middle , which we're going to need, which we've needed. So with him being back at full strength, it should only help." Walden charged: Linebacker Erik Walden was charged Wednesday with misdemeanor disorderly conduct-domestic abuse following his Nov. 25 arrest. However, McCarthy said Walden will start Sunday against the Oakland Raiders but that "it's an open situation." Harrell promoted: Third-string quarterback Graham Harrell was signed to the Packers' 53-man roster, replacing the spot of tight end Andrew Quarless. Quarless was placed on injured reserve following a significant knee injury suffered against the Giants on special teams. Follow Paul Imig on Twitter
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