Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, who has barely shown up on the stat sheet the past three games, spoke optimistically about his injured shoulder and his ability to return to his playmaking ways on Saturday against Minnesota.
“I think this week will be a step in the right direction,” Matthews said on Thursday. “I really do feel good about this week. Every other week, it’s been just about keeping it from reinjuring it and being smart, but I feel like this week with where I’m at mentally, I feel like this week should be a week where I can hopefully do the things that I’m accustomed to doing.”
In the three full games since being leveled by Allen Barbre on the opening series at Philadelphia, Matthews’ impact has been practically nonexistent: Zero sacks, one quarterback hit and two tackles, according to the coaches’ stats. He’s played 82 snaps, most of them coming on passing downs, but hasn’t been able to beat offensive linemen with one healthy arm.
On Wednesday, defensive coordinator Dom Capers and linebackers coach Winston Moss said it was worth playing a limited Matthews because of the possibility he could make a big play to swing a game in the team’s favor. That hasn’t happened, but Matthews said he hadn’t derailed his recovery by playing the past three weeks, either.
“It’s about being able to contribute in ways that I can,” Matthews said. “It may not be to the level that we’re accustomed to seeing, or that really I’m accustomed to performing at. That’s what’s the most difficult part. Other than that, you’re trying to help the team in whatever way that you can, even if you’re not at 100 percent, in hopes that you weather the storm and move forward and just continue to get better. That’s really the dilemma that you go through as an injured player sometimes.”
Had the Packers practiced on Thursday, Matthews would have been full participation, as would have quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Fellow outside linebacker Nick Perry, who has missed the past two games with a hand injury, would have been limited. He is experimenting with different club-casts in hopes that he can return this week.
For Minnesota, running back Adrian Peterson sat out another practice while safety Harrison Smith and leading receiver Stefon Diggs went from did not participate to limited.
Matthews said he was “real close” to being “close” to 100 percent healthy.
The Packers need Matthews to not just be playing but playing well as they make a final push toward the playoffs and a possible NFC North championship. The defense has run hot and cold all season and Matthews, even with just four sacks, is one of the players capable of raising the unit and providing those critical one, two or three plays that Capers so often talks about as being the key to victory.
“It’s been a challenging year, that’s for sure,” Matthews said. “Physically, having some of the injuries I’ve had but mentally, more than anything, just having to overcome them week after week has been very difficult, not doubt about it. It is what it is. I’m feeling good now and can only focus on the next game and not the past. Hopefully this is our best game and we can get this win and, for me personally, I can continue to do a little more each and every week.”
|GREEN BAY PACKERS|
|Randall Cobb, WR||Ankle||Limited||Limited|
|Jayrone Elliott, LB||Hand||DNP||DNP|
|T.J. Lang, G||Foot/Back||Limited||Limited|
|Clay Matthews, LB||Shoulder||Full||Full|
|Nick Perry, LB||Hand||Limited||Limited|
|Damarious Randall, CB||Shoulder||Limited||Limited|
|Aaron Rodgers, QB||Calf||Full||Full|
|James Starks, RB||Concussion||DNP||DNP|
|Lane Taylor, G||Hip||Limited||Full|
|JC Tretter, C/G||Knee||Limited||Limited|
|Mackensie Alexander, CB||Abdomen||Limited||Full|
|Stefon Diggs, WR||Hip||DNP||Limited|
|Brandon Fusco, G||Concussion||DNP||DNP|
|Charles Johnson, WR||Knee||Full||Full|
|Zach Line, FB||Concussion||Limited||Limited|
|Adrian Peterson, RB||Knee/Groin||DNP||DNP|
|Marcus Sherels, CB||Rib||Full||Full|
|Jeremiah Sirles, T||Ankle||Full||Full|
|Harrison Smith, S||Ankle||DNP||Limited|
|Laquon Treadwell, WR||Ankle||DNP||DNP|
|Trae Waynes, CB||Concussion||Limited||Full|
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.