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Packers' Neal hurts knee, will have MRI to determine severity

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Mike Neal injured his left knee during a non-contact drill early in Tuesday's practice, and Packers coach Mike McCarthy said the defensive end will have an MRI and other tests done.

"The way Mike fell -- I saw it from the special-teams drill -- just the reaction from everybody makes you nervous," McCarthy said. "As far as the position, the defensive line, you have healthy competition. We were expecting big things from Mike as a contributor this year. I don't want to see any of those guys get hurt, especially both sides of the line."

Neal was expected to help replace Cullen Jenkins at defensive end. After practice, Neal said on Twitter: "I'm A-OK."

Fellow defensive lineman B.J. Raji, who was participating in the same drill, called the injury a "freak" accident. Veteran defensive end Ryan Pickett was equally concerned.

"Everybody knows how vital he is to our success this year. So, that got around real quick," Pickett said. "Everybody breathed a sigh of relief when he got up and started walking. Hopefully, he's fine."

Neal, a 2010 second-round draft pick from Purdue, played in just two games as a rookie before he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. He is the presumptive replacement for Jenkins, who signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in free agency.

While Neal played in just two regular-season games before a complete tear of his rotator cuff and a partial tear of his labrum, he had a significant impact. In 26 snaps against the Detroit Lions on Oct. 3, he forced a Jahvid Best fumble that was recovered by Pickett to set up a touchdown. Against the Washington Redskins on Oct. 10, with Pickett out with a first-quarter ankle injury, Neal played 53 snaps and had five tackles, his first NFL sack, a quarterback hit and a pressure.

The Packers didn't make an effort to re-sign Jenkins, despite the affordable five-year, $25 million deal he received from the Eagles, in part because of their confidence in Neal. Despite appearing in just 11 games because of a calf injury, and playing about half those games with a cast on his broken hand, Jenkins finished second on the team in sacks with seven, trailing only Pro Bowl outside linebacker Clay Matthews.

"There's no doubt about it that Cullen was a great player and will continue to be," Matthews said. "But, it's time for these young guys to step up now, just as they expected me to do when I came in."

Notes: Neal wasn't the only casualty in practice, as cornerback Pat Lee and safety Anthony Levine were involved in a wicked collision during a 7-on-7 drill. Levine got the worse of it and left practice for evaluation. ... The defense got the best of the offense in both practice-ending 2-minute drills. The No. 1 offense turned the ball over on downs after three dropped passes by wide receivers, and the No. 2 offense ended its possession with an interception thrown by Graham Harrell. ... QB Aaron Rodgers dismissed a question about how the Packers will avoid a so-called Super Bowl hangover. "We're not any of those other teams," Rodgers said. "We're a different team. We're adding guys back to the mix. I don't think about those kind of things."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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