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Starks, Neal itching to play for Packers

Associated Press Modified: October 6, 2012 at 5:01 am •  Published: October 6, 2012
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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.