This isn't what Green Bay Packers fans want to read: Oft-injured defensive end Mike Neal left practice Tuesday because of what the team is tentatively calling a sprained left knee. Coach Mike McCarthy said he would have a more definitive diagnosis following an MRI exam.
According to those in attendance, Neal crumpled to the ground, clutching his knee, when his feet got tangled during a defensive line drill. McCarthy told reporters: "I saw how he fell. It makes you nervous."
Neal walked off the field under his own power, but that doesn't necessarily indicate the injury's severity. At the very least, it will be another bump in the road for a promising player who hasn't been able to stay on the field since the Packers made him a second-round draft choice in 2010.
Neal got a lot of people excited by his lively performance during training camp last summer, but a strained muscle near his rib cage and then a major shoulder injury limited him to a pair of regular season games. His recovery was one of the reasons the Packers felt comfortable allowing veteran Cullen Jenkins to depart via free agency, and he started last Saturday's preseason opener against the Cleveland Browns.
At this point, everyone should just take a deep breath and await the final diagnosis. The Packers have some depth at the position, beginning with C.J. Wilson, but they were clearly counting on Neal to be a special player and not just a big-bodied place-holder on their defensive line. Stay tuned.
*Update: Neal told Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that "nothing's torn at all" and that he has nothing more serious than inflammation in the knee. Neal did say that an MRI won't be performed until Wednesday.