McCarren: Packers discern Neal's status, O-line has 'dramatic turnaround'

CREATED Oct. 3, 2012

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  • Mike Neal. | Photo: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

GREEN BAY - With a matchup against the Indianapolis Colts on the horizon, the Green Bay Packers are focusing on some of the "guys in the trenches" - the improved offensive line, and the hope that defensive lineman Mike Neal can get on the field soon after a four-game suspension.

Green Bay's line allowed eight first-half sacks against Seattle on Sept. 24.  They allowed none against New Orleans last Sunday.

Newsradio 620 WTMJ Packers color commentator and TODAY'S TMJ4 sports reporter Larry McCarren, a former Packers lineman, called that accomplishment "...a dramatic turnaround, not terribly surprising." 

"I think the offensive line has much better talent than it showed in Seattle," he told Newsradio 620 WTMJ's "Wisconsin's Morning News." 

"Eight sacks were too many, and the offensive line was embarrassed by it and seeking a little self-redemption."

Redemption came in spades for the O-line, not only for what it didn't allow the Saints, but for what it allowed quarterback Aaron Rodgers: lots of time to pick-apart the Saints' pass defense.

"I've never seen so many perfect pockets in one game, where Aaron Rodgers goes back and there's nobody in the neighborhood.  Rodgers had his best day of the season, and I don't think it's any coincidence that the offensive line had its best day of the season."

The Packers now are focusing on the potential of Neal...and the word has surrounded him since being selected in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

He's been embattled by both injuries and his own actions leading to the suspension due to use of a performance-enhancer that is against NFL rules.

He is not expected to be available for Sunday against the Colts, but he could he return against Houston.

"It's certainly an interesting scenario," explained McCarren. 

"(The Packers) have got some time invested in the guy.  Why not take a look, see where his body and head is at and go from there?  Just because of their investment to this point, I suppose just letting him go would surprise me."

Why would the Packers let him go?  McCarren says it has to do with a problematic lack of production, due to both injuries and not going full bore every play in practice.

"He's a frustrating individual.  Some days at camp, he looked like he was really in it, and it looked like a man against boys.  He's got that kind of ability.  A strong guy, a quick guy.  Other times, he just kind of vanishes.  When it comes to actual playing in games, his availability has been mostly down.  He's been hurt a lot.  If he's really into it, and it depends on how they'll work him into the rotation, I think a week of practice (for the Texans game), and he'll be ready to go."