Redskins

Starks, Neal itching to play for Packers

Starks, Neal itching to play for Packers

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Mike Neal is hoping his Indiana homecoming counts for something.

Neal, a native of the Hoosier State, said Friday he secured about 20 tickets for those close to him to attend Sunday's matchup in Indianapolis between the Green Bay Packers and the hometown Colts.

``My friends and family have always been supportive,'' Neal said. ``Me playing or not playing, the big thing is just to be able to see them.''

Still, Neal would prefer to be seen in uniform on the Lucas Oil Stadium turf instead of standing on the sideline dressed in sweats.

Neal and Green Bay teammate James Starks are itching to play for the first time this season, but neither player knows whether the long wait will end Sunday, when the Packers (2-2) visit the Colts (1-2).

``I don't know how it's really going to work,'' Starks said. ``I don't know what Coach's got in store.''

Coach Mike McCarthy refrained from saying after practice Friday what the status of Starks and Neal would be on game day.

Starks, a running back who led Green Bay in rushing yards last season, feels healthy again after being out since the preseason with a toe injury.

Neal, a defensive end whose young pro career has been marred by injuries, feels he's ready to return to game action after serving a suspension the first four weeks of the season.

``Those decisions will be made after we meet (as coaches) today,'' McCarthy said. ``I really don't want to get into who's up and who's not.''

The NFL gave the Packers a one-week roster exemption for Neal, who rejoined the team Monday and resumed practicing Wednesday. So they could wait until after Sunday's game to add Neal to the 53-man roster.

An eager Neal feels he can be of help right away as Green Bay kicks off a stretch of three straight games on the road.

``I feel fine,'' Neal said. ``I'm always in game shape, man. I'm one of them people that I usually work out a lot, and even if I don't I like to get tired, I like to make myself tired. You can never be in perfect shape.''

The opinion from the coaches after they watched him the last three days on the practice field is he returned to the team in good physical shape.

Neal was allowed to practice and play in the preseason. But he had to leave the team after the final exhibition game Aug. 30 and begin serving the four-game suspension at the start of the season.

The NFL-imposed suspension stemmed from a violation of the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Neal had been taking the prescription medication Adderall but didn't alert the league of his use of it before he was tested.

Neal split time during his four weeks away from the Packers between his home in Merrillville, Ind., and Tampa, Fla., where he worked out.

``Mike looks healthy,'' Packers defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said. ``He looks big, strong, quick. He looked good. He had a good week of practice. He had a great retention of the defense. He's a smart kid, so no problems there.''

Neal was a college standout at Purdue, and the Packers selected him in the second round of the 2010 draft. He hasn't come close to fulfilling the big expectations on him at the start of his pro career, playing just a total of 10 games his first two seasons.

Neal missed most of his rookie season with a shoulder injury. He then suffered a knee injury in the preseason last year and was out until November.

After being healthy and productive toward the end of the preseason this year, Neal would love for his first game this season to be in front of his mini-cheering section but is keeping an open mind.

``It's not my decision,'' he said. ``If I had some clue, I would know. But it's whatever they decide to do, and whatever they decide to do is obviously the right thing to do. So you just have to go with it.''

Starks also is playing the waiting game for when his first appearance of the season will occur. He believes he's ready to contribute after enduring a lengthy recovery for turf toe on his right foot. He sustained the injury in the Packers' first preseason game Aug. 9.

``It's feeling good now,'' Starks said. ``Obviously, it's probably going to linger for a year and stuff like that, but it's still good. I've got my burst back, starting to cut better, everything. It's something you deal with and move on.''

Although Starks was projected to be the starter at running back after the Packers didn't re-sign free agent Ryan Grant in the offseason, they added veteran Cedric Benson only three days after Starks was injured.

Benson has produced in the featured role early in the season. He had a season-high 84 yards in 18 carries in the win over the Saints on Sunday.

NOTES: Green Bay already will be without Pro Bowl WR Greg Jennings against the Colts. The team declared him out Thursday for the game after Jennings aggravated a groin injury in the win over New Orleans. . DL Ryan Pickett is probable to play Sunday. The veteran starter practiced on a limited basis this week because of shoulder and knee injuries. Safety M.D. Jennings (neck) also is probable.

Quick Links

Bruce Allen addresses Alex Smith's recovery and the Redskins' future at quarterback

Bruce Allen addresses Alex Smith's recovery and the Redskins' future at quarterback

Alex Smith is "well on his way to a recovery," Bruce Allen told reporters at the Senior Bowl. When that recovery ultimately happens, though, remains unclear.

"We'll see where it goes," Allen said in his first session with the media in quite some time. "We're optimistic. If anyone can come back, it's Alex."

"I appreciate the love and the care, that all of our fans have reached out to him," he added. "It's a tough thing for him and his family, but all the love and the care have helped him quite a bit."

Smith, who's a little more than two months past his devastating leg injury, was seen at Monday's Wizards game at Capital One Arena. He also hung out in the Wizards' locker room, using crutches to get around. He was wearing an external fixator on his right leg.

The fact that Smith was able to be out in public was encouraging from a human perspective. From a football perspective, however, it brought about additional concern regarding his future in the NFL.

But that doubt isn't forcing the 'Skins to make acquiring a signal caller a primary task in the coming months, according to Allen.

"We prioritize every position on the team and we'll see what we get in free agency and the draft," the team president said. "We don't have to make that decision right now."

Colt McCoy is one in-house option for the Burgundy and Gold, and he'll be healthy enough to participate in the offseason programs, per Allen. McCoy broke his leg a few weeks after Smith, but his break was much less severe.

In looking back on the trade to get Smith from the Chiefs last January, Allen referred to it as a "no-brainer" and recalled that all decision makers were "unanimous" in their interest in Smith. 

Yet, while it's wholly unfair to criticize the trade now considering how unexpected last season's events were, Smith's health has put the Redskins in a very difficult spot.

The main thing off the field, of course, is hoping and ensuring that he's able to live his life how he wants to. 

On the field, meanwhile, the Redskins need to do something under center. Allen can say that every position is of equal priority, but the simple truth is that this franchise's every step will be tied to Smith's injury as well as finding a new option as long as he's sidelined.

MORE REDSKINS NEWS

The Arena Football League is expanding to Atlantic City with Monumental's third team

arenafootball.jpg
@ThePressofAC/Twitter

The Arena Football League is expanding to Atlantic City with Monumental's third team

Arena Football is officially expanding to Atlantic City N.J., the League announced Tuesday. 

The expansion franchise, owned by Ted Leonsis' Monumental Sports & Entertainment, expected to be placed at the historic Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall, will begin its inaugural season in April.

Sports gambling's recent emergence has to be appealing to this venue and location for obvious reasons. Seven casinos now have sports books on their properties. DraftKings, an Arena League partner, operates one at Resorts Casino Hotel.

“We are thrilled that Atlantic City will be the next great arena football town,” said Leonsis in an official release. “Arena Football is a game that’s tailor-made for an integrated sports betting experience, and Atlantic City is a perfect fit to help realize our vision for the AFL as the next frontier in sports betting and gaming.

“We are excited about this announcement and about future expansion of the league to come.”

Atlantic City is now the fifth active franchise in the Arena League, joining the Phialdelphia Soul, Albany (New York) Empire and the MSE-owned Baltimore Brigade and Washington Valor. 

Fans are invited to submit team name ideas at AtlanticCityAFL.com. The final choices will then be available for a fan vote at a later date.

The reigning champion Washington Valor greeted the brand new team shortly after the announcement. 

The 2019 regular season schedule will feature 12 games. Atlantic City is in the process of searching for its first head coach.