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Mike Neal's return boosts Packers' linebackers

GREEN BAY, Wis. – So this is what the Green Bay Packers' linebacker group should look like:

Other than Nick Perry, who remains sidelined with a groin injury, the Packers finally had most of their top pass rushers on the field together for a training camp practice.

That's because not only did Clay Matthews return to practice Monday from the sore knee that cost him a week of camp but Mike Neal finally passed his physical and was activated off the physically unable to perform list. Neal missed the first eight practices of camp while recovering from hernia surgery. He appeared to be a limited participant in the 97-minute practice.

The trio of Matthews, Neal and Julius Peppers combined for more than half (22.5) of the Packers' sacks (41) last season, while Perry added three more.

"We're in a good position," Neal said. "We have a lot of depth at that position. We have a lot of experience, probably one of the most experienced groups on the team. We all work well together, and I think you can look on any team and see if you can find [better depth] at outside linebacker. You just don't get it. So just trying to keep everybody healthy and make sure everybody gets good reps and split the playing time up and make sure we're fresh, is the biggest thing. But we have the opportunity to be as good as we want to be."

It was another difficult offseason for Neal, who underwent surgery to repair a bilateral sports hernia that he said he has played with the last two seasons. He said he actually had it repaired once before, but it didn't take. Nevertheless, he played in all 32 regular-season games the last two seasons after suiting up for just 20 games in his first three years and in the process perhaps answered some questions about his durability.

"It was something I was able to push through," Neal said. "I was able to play. Coming back every camp the last three years I felt the same thing, so just this year we took a different approach to it."

The Packers paid Neal a $1 million roster bonus in March. He's in the second year of the two-year, $8 million contract he signed in 2014.

In addition to Neal and Matthews, outside linebackers Jayrone Elliott (shoulder) and Adrian Hubbard (groin) also returned.