Defensive end Mike Neal has been suspended by the NFL for the first four games of the 2012 season for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing substances. The third year pro apparently appealed the suspension and was denied. Neal, a second round draft choice out of Purdue in 2010 has been plagued by injuries and has further stretched the Pack's patience with this suspension. As a rookie, Neal strained an abdominal muscle before tearing his labrum which required surgery after appearing in only two games. In training camp last summer, Neal suffered a knee injury on the practice field which required surgery and he returned to play in the team's final seven games. He's played in only 9 of 32 regular season games and has recorded just one sack. The Packers were counting on him to deliver some pressure from the defensive end position. Neal will be allowed to practice with the team in this summer's camp but will then sit out the first month. Because of injury and now this PED transgression, Neal has put himself behind the 8 ball from even making the roster.
It was a quiet first day of free agency for the Pack, not unusual for GM Ted Thompson. A deal could not be reached with center Scott Wells who will now test the waters around the league. There are several centers on the open market although San Diego signed Nick Hardwick just before he was to become unrestricted. Tennessee has shown some interest but Chris Meyers of Houston, Jeff Faine of Tampa Bay are also free agents. While it's possible Wells could sign elsewhere, leaving the Packers thin at the position and possibly forcing Thompson to sign a veteran rather than hope a player like Evan Dietrich-Smith or practice squad center Sampson Genus to develop, don't be surprised if the market softens and Wells, like James Jones a year ago, returns to the Pack. Quarterback Matt Flynn is another free agent likely to leave for an opportunity to start on another team but don't expect much action for Flynn until Peyton Manning makes up his mind on where to play. Jarrett Bush is another player the Packers would like back, I'm not sure how many teams value special teams talent alone for a free agent. Ryan Grant may not be back whether he signs a deal or not, the same for Pat Lee, Howard Green and Erik Walden.