However, for the first time in weeks, Matthews participated in some of the padded work. It might not have been the "Christmas miracle" that kicker Mason Crosby joked from a few lockers away, but Matthews' injury has improved in the nick of time.
"The timeframe that's taken has definitely helped him, shutting him down during the course of the week, how his body responds after the game," coach Mike McCarthy said on Thursday. "So, we feel that we're at a point between the doctors and the feedback from Clay that we're in a safe enough zone for him to practice in. He's a young player. He needs it, just like everybody else."
After the Week 8 game against the Jets on Oct. 31, Matthews had a league-high 9.5 sacks. He showed up on the injury report the following Thursday leading into the game against Dallas, in which he had a sack. He added another when Cullen Jenkins chased Brett Favre out of the pocket at Minnesota in Week 11, with Favre sliding to the turf at the sideline near Matthews. Since then, though, Matthews was shut out in Week 12 against Atlanta and Week 13 against San Francisco, had a garbage sack against Detroit when third-string quarterback Drew Stanton kept retreating rather than throwing the ball away, then got shut out again on Sunday night at New England.
Now, Matthews ranks second with 12.5 sacks, behind the 14 of Miami's Cameron Wake.
"You miss one or two practices, it's OK. You spelled yourself a little bit," Matthews said. "But when you start missing weeks, obviously you're not out there to get the reps but you're also not out there with your teammates. It takes a toll on you. So, I'm glad to be back out there with the guys and getting some reps."
It's just in time, too, with the Packers facing a must-win game against the Giants on Sunday. If they win that game, they'll face another must-win game against Chicago.
"We realize what's at stake, so obviously we need our best players out there helping us out," Matthews said. "So, anything I can (do to) help out. I am feeling better, so if I can get out there and take how many reps I need to go, take the live-action reps, then it should not only help me out but the team."
Packers injury report
Out: DE Cullen Jenkins. Did not participate: G Marshall Newhouse (back); LB Frank Zombo (knee). Limited participation: LB Diyral Briggs (ankle); S Nick Collins (ribs); LB Clay Matthews (shin); DE Ryan Pickett (ankle); LB Erik Walden (quad); C Scott Wells (back); CB Charles Woodson (toe). Full participation: T Chad Clifton (knees); CB Pat Lee (ankle); QB Aaron Rodgers (concussion).
McCarthy said he wasn't concerned, even with Zombo and Walden banged up. "We've been through this a lot this year," McCarthy said. "We're just getting everybody ready to play. But both of those guys are doing a good job with the extra time in the training room, and both have positive outlooks."
Giants injury report
Did not participate: CB Will Blackmon (knee); DE Dave Tollefson (knee). Limited participation: DE Osi Umenyiora (knee). Full participation: T Shane Andrews (back); T David Diehl (illness); WR Mario Manningham (heel); C Shaun O'Hara (foot); WR Devin Thomas (hamstring).
Blackmon, the former Packers kick returner, was added to the list and Darius Reynaud likely will handle those duties.
-- The Packers spent portions of practice outside on Ray Nitschke Field, which features heating coils like those that keep Lambeau Field free of ice. "Nitschke Field is only conducive to certain periods that we're able to practice," McCarthy said. "So, we go out onto Nitschke for the team periods, because you only have so much grass out there. The rest of the practice structure you need the extra space that the Hutson Center has. We were outside today. The grass was green. It was awesome."
-- Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said he had a hard time getting past last week's loss to Philadelphia and that Sunday's game will be a huge challenge against the Packers' offense. ""They have organized chaos with their offensive personnel sets," Fewell told beat reporters in East Rutherford, N.J. "You have to be on top of your game and you have to have a plan and be ready for that organized chaos because you have to have organized chaos to match it."
-- First-round pick Bryan Bulaga blew a blitz that resulted in a sack with about 1 minute to go at New England, eventually costing the Packers a chance to win. "Whoever's out there playing gets zero leeway," offensive line coach James Campen said. "It doesn't matter if you're a rookie or not, you have to do your job and mental errors are inexcusable."
-- The Packers worked out Tom Johnson, a defensive end from Southern Mississippi, Fox Sports' Adam Caplan told Packer Report. The 6-foot-3, 288-pounder played the last two seasons with Calgary of the CFL, recording seven sacks during that time.
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