"Yes, I plan to play. I'll be out there this Sunday," Matthews, the Green Bay Packers' best defensive player, said after Thursday's practice.
That might not have been the case had the Packers had a game last week. Matthews sat out the second half of the Week 3 game at Cincinnati due to an injured hamstring. Then came what he labeled a "fortuitous" bye week to help get him ready for a key NFC North clash against Detroit.
He was listed as full participation on Thursday after being limited on Wednesday.
"The first part of getting over a hamstring strain is healing and, obviously, I can't control that," he said. "Coming back, the final hurdle you have to overcome is, ‘Mentally are you comfortable with exerting 100 percent effort or even more so?' I wouldn't put myself out there if I wasn't. Coming in on Monday, I felt good. I obviously had to prove to myself and to the coaches that I'm capable of not only being able to run and cut and do everything I need to, but do it at a high level to where it won't affect this defense. So, I feel good about it. I don't think you'll see a drop-off come Sunday."
Matthews has dealt with hamstring injuries every season since being a first-round draft pick in 2009. That experience has allowed him to handle the injury better, including not risking himself by coming back too soon – or, conversely, by being too cautious.
Matthews said it was a joint decision between himself and the medical staff to not play in the second half against the Bengals. He said it was the "wise" decision, given his history with the injury and the team's 23-14 lead when the defense got its first action of the second half.
"It is unfortunate, first and foremost, but I've come to, not accept it, but to understand the rehab process," he said. "I think a younger Clay thought the world was over and I was going to be cut the next day and I'm not living up to the billing. But I've just got to get healthy. It's part of the deal. When I come back, I'm going to be the same player that I've been for the past several years. So, unfortunate? Yes. I wish we all had an answer for it, but I'll come back and I'll make the plays that I do."
Packers injury report
Out: CB Casey Hayward (hamstring), RB James Starks (knee), G Greg Van Roten (foot). Full: S Morgan Burnett (hamstring), CB Jarrett Bush (hamstring), TE Jermichael Finley (concussion), RB Johnathan Franklin (foot), FB John Kuhn (hamstring), RB Eddie Lacy (concussion), LB Clay Matthews (hamstring).
Hayward is out but he participated in his first practice since re-injuring his hamstring during the third preseason game. "Casey Hayward worked some of the individual drills. It's really frankly part of his rehab training," coach Mike McCarthy said.
Lions injury report
Out: WR Nate Burleson (forearm). Did not participate: CB Chris Houston (hamstring), WR Calvin Johnson (knee). Limited: DE Ezekiel Ansah (abdomen), S Louis Delmas (knee), DE Israel Idonije (hamstring), S Glover Quin (ankle), G Rob Sims (shoulder). Full: WR Patrick Edwards (ankle), T Jason Fox (groin), CB Rashean Mathis (head).
On Wednesday, starting defensive backs Delmas, Houston and Quin were held out of practice. On Thursday, Delmas and Quin wree back. Houston, clearly the team's top corner, did not practice again. Idonije was added to the report.
-- Cornerback Tramon Williams, on what it means for Burnett to play his first game of the season: "A big boost for our defense. Any time you get a guy back like Morgan, it's going to be a good thing. He brings so much to the defense – covers the field well back there, plays the run well. Obviously, we missed him. For him to be back, definitely a good thing. Gives you a sense of comfort, enables you to play the game that you want to play and not think about things. You've got buys back there who you know know what they're doing and are going to be in the position that they're supposed to be in. To get Morgan back is definitely a good thing."
-- Randall Cobb is in the mix to return kicks. Why would the Packers risk arguably their No. 1 offensive threat. "I can understand that view but I would think you'd understand my view on it," special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said, noting how the kick return is the first offensive play of the possession. <
-- With Van Roten out, who would play center if something were to happen to Evan Dietrich-Smith? "We've always cross-trained enough guys there," offensive line coach James Campen said, pointing to guards T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton and right tackle Don Barclay. "We'll see how that goes. Evan just won't get hurt, so you'll never know."
-- The Packers are 14/1 odds to win the Super Bowl, according to online bookmaker Bovada. Denver is 5/2, followed by Seattle at 9/2, New England and New Orleans at 9/1, and San Francisco at 12/1. Aaron Rodgers is third in MVP odds at 10/1. Peyton Manning is an overwhelming choice at 1/3, followed by Drew Brees at 7/2.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.