It's been more than a month since Mike Neal has been near 1265 Lombardi Avenue.
Now he's hoping for a fresh start to a career that's had a bumpy beginning.
"That was my prayer last night," Neal said to reporters at his locker Wednesday. "I prayed for like an hour asking for a new beginning. That's what I'm hoping for."
The third-year pro has played in only nine games in his career due to injuries, and now a suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy that cost him the first four games of 2012.
The Packers have until Monday to decide Neal's roster status, but the former Purdue Boilermaker is hoping to play Sunday in his home state of Indiana.
"If I have a chance to be active this week, I have a lot of family that wants to come to the game."So just being able to get out there and play in front of my family is one of the biggest things."
If you look back all the way to the 1950's and the likes of Forrest Gregg and Jim Taylor, the Packers franchise has done a fine job selecting players in the second round of the NFL Draft. Even more recently Green Bay has selected the likes of Darren Sharper, Nick Collins, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, and Randall Cobb in the second round. But Neal has yet to prove he is the real deal having totaled only six tackles and one sack since 2010.
"I never felt like I had to prove anything to anyone except myself," Neal responded when asked if he has something to prove. "I was able to let a lot of my frustration go in the first two years and prove to myself that I belong here. As long as I can do that I am content."
"He looks to be in great shape," said Head Coach Mike McCarthy after practice. "He wasn't winded at all, fresh legs. He had a good practice. I think tomorrow's padded practice will give us a better indication of where he is."
Neal's teammates weren't surprised that that #96 returned with his usual ripped physique.
"You don't see a lot of defensive lineman walking around with six packs," B.J. Raji commented Wednesday. "He's a freak of an athlete. He's a tough guy, a competitor. "He's overcome a lot, and I think everything that has happened to him ultimately could be the best thing that happened to him."
Neal maintains he did nothing wrong to be suspended, but part of his fresh start is saying goodbye to all that frustration he was carrying around.
"When I first got suspended I was pretty upset with the nature of missing my first two seasons practically, and then having to serve the suspension. "But God's got a plan for everybody. I kept myself positive, and I was able to let it go and I feel good."