Injuries complicate free agency for some

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- As if there weren’t enough questions about the future of the 17 Green Bay Packers’ players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents in March, injuries to a couple of them could complicate matters.

Outside linebacker Mike Neal and cornerback Sam Shields both sustained knee injuries in Sunday’s NFC wild-card playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Both have expiring contracts but are coming off their most productive seasons.

The exact diagnosis of their injuries was not known on Monday, when players cleaned out their lockers and began season-ending exit meetings, but indications were that neither sustained a major problem.

Neal, who played in every game for the first time in his career, said he hurt his right knee when he was cut blocked by a 49ers player. He said doctors told him his knee was structurally intact, meaning an ACL tear was unlikely, but that won’t be known for sure until he undergoes more tests.

Shields, who emerged as the Packers’ best player in pass coverage this season, injured his left knee against the 49ers but indicated on Twitter that it was “nothing major.”

I just want to thank the whole Packer Nation for all the support we had through out this season btw it's nothing major with my injury I'm ok

— Sam shields (@ShieldSam37) January 6, 2014

According to an NFL source, initial tests showed Shields sustained only a bone bruise.

More serious injuries would impact their negotiations. The Packers have been working to re-sign Shields, although he is believed to be seeking top-end cornerback money in the neighborhood of $7 million to $8 million per season.

Neal made the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker and posted a career-high five sacks. He would like to see what a second year at his new position in this same defense would do for him.

“Honestly, you think about people making transitions, and to make it in as short a period as I did and to be as successful as I was, if I play another year I wouldn’t expect anything less than to be great,” Neal said.