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Green Bay Packers Release Phillip Merling, Activate Mike Neal: Fan’s Take

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The Green Bay Packers have made a swift modification on their defensive line. The Packers released Phillip Merling on October 6, 2012. They replaced him with recently suspended Mike Neal. The Packers had a roster exemption for Neal. However, they apparently feel like he's ready to contribute against the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts host the Packers on October 7.

The Packers signed Merling to a one-year contract this past offseason. In three games, Merling had two tackles. The 27-year-old Merling didn't play much behind a line that consists of B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, Jerel Worthy, C.J. Wilson and Mike Daniels. Merling joins former teammate Daniel Muir in the free-agent market.

The NFL suspended Neal after he tested positive for Adderall. That's a violation of the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy. Neal was active for the preseason. He was suspended for the first four games of the regular season.

What can fans expect from Neal? Don't get those hopes up very high. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy always stresses "Availability." If a player is constantly injured or suspended, then there's no use for his on-field talents. Neal hasn't played much because of injures and suspensions.

The Packers need a replacement for Cullen Jenkins. Just look at what J.J. Watt has done for the Houston Texans' 3-4 defense. Through four games, Watt leads the NFL with 7.5 sacks. The Packers drafted Neal to play that role. Unfortunately, he can't do that unless he remains on the gridiron.

The Packers don't have a J.J. Watt-type of defensive lineman. However, the pass rush has improved. Through four games, Clay Matthews has seven sacks. The Packers have 14 team sacks. That's the NFL's fifth-highest total. The Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams are ahead of them. These teams already played their Week 5 Thursday Night Football game.

Can Neal stay health and live up to his potential? The Packers have nothing to lose. He's worth one more look. The Packers will probably use him in nickel packages. If he gets injured again, then it's time to move on.

Joshua Huffman graduated from Middle Tennessee State University as a marketing major in 2009. He's been a Middle Tennessee resident from 1986-88 and 2001-present. He lived in the Upper Peninsula and Northern Wisconsin from 1988-01 and for approximately eight months in 2009-10 as he completed a 20-game volunteer position with the USHL's Green Bay Gamblers. His favorite sports organizations include the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Cubs, Nashville Predators and Tennessee Titans. He can be found on Twitter HERE.

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