More games missed for Mikey: Packers’ Neal suspended for four games
By Robert McGinn, Journal-Sentinel
~Green Bay – Defensive end Mike Neal has dug himself a hole with the Green Bay Packers from which it might be impossible for him to recover.
Neal’s sagging career took another major hit Tuesday when the National Football League suspended him for the first four games of next season for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
Neal, a second-round draft choice in 2010 from Purdue, will be allowed to participate in the off-season program and training camp. If he makes the final 53-man roster, he would be suspended without pay for the first four games.
Citing confidentiality, a team spokesman said the Packers would not comment. Attempts to reach Neal were unsuccessful.
Agent Roosevelt Barnes said his client’s appeal already had been denied.
“He’s very remorseful,” said Barnes. “He’ll serve his suspension and then be ready to come back and play.”
Neal’s mother, Rhonda, said more than 10 times during an interview that her son had not taken performance-enhancing drugs.
“Mikey, we call him Mikey, has never taken a performance-enhancing drug in his life,” she said. “If he would have taken it they would have found out through college, they would have found out when he first got to the NFL. He has been tested several times at random, like the rest of the guys.”
However, she refused to say what substance had gotten her son suspended.
“It’s nothing that can make him stronger, better or anything else,” Rhonda Neal said. “It was absolutely nothing like that.
“But I will tell you this. The same thing he was caught with, I take it all the time. I’m not on drugs. I am on a lot of medication because I just got through with chemotherapy.
“He did not take my medication. What he has is just common. It’s absolutely nothing.”
Although records are incomplete, Neal is one of only a handful of Packers players known to have been suspended for performance-enhancing drugs.
In August 1989, offensive linemen Keith Uecker and Mike Ariey were suspended 30 days by the NFL for steroid abuse.
In December 1998, linebacker Jude Waddy was suspended four games for steroid abuse, a penalty he served late that season and in early ’99.
In the last decade, defensive lineman Cletidus Hunt (2001), linebacker Torrance Marshall (2003) and cornerback Erwin Swiney (2004) were handed four-game suspensions for violating the NFL’s drug and alcohol policy. It was never made clear what their substance of abuse was.
Because the Packers have been largely immune from problems involving performance-enhancing substances, it’s hard to say if general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy will give Neal another chance or just release him.
The Packers won’t lose anything financially if they work with Neal in the off-season. But, if Neal remains on the roster for the first day of training camp, they would have to pay him a reporting bonus of $491,500 because he played more than 11% (13.2%) of the defensive snaps in 2011.
If Neal makes the team, he would lose $31,765 per game, or $127,059 of his $540,000 base salary, during the four-game suspension. His original contract was for $2.95 million over four years.
Under the NFL drug policy, one positive test, an attempt to dilute or substitute a specimen or an attempt to manipulate the test results in a four-game suspension.
Step Two brings an eight-game suspension, and Step Three brings a suspension of 12 months or more.
In two seasons, Neal has played 237 snaps in 10 of a possible 37 games. Last season, he played 158 snaps over the final eight games and really never made a play.
As a rookie, Neal missed time with rib cartilage damage before suffering a torn rotator cuff.
Last season, he suffered knee cartilage damage Aug. 16, underwent arthroscopic surgery and didn’t return until Nov. 20.
At Purdue, Neal had major knee, turf toe and shoulder injuries.
Rhonda Neal insisted that the substance that resulted in her son’s suspension had nothing to do with his well-documented attempts to recover from knee surgery.
“It was absolutely nothing to do with injury or knees,” she said. “He’s not taking any supplements that were not on the approved list. Everything Michael takes his natural.”
Although Neal said in September that he slept no more than two or three hours each night, his mother insisted he had never taken sleeping pills.
Near the end of a telephone interview, Rhonda Neal said, “If he has taken some kind of performance-enhancing drugs, then shame on all of the athletics and shame on the NFL for allowing him to get as far as he did while taking it. Because he didn’t.
“This is my son. He never has.”
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