NFL: Sacks leader Matthews OK with reduced practice
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) – Relentless linebacker Clay Matthews can’t stand coming out for one play in a game and he rarely does.
Practice is a different story for the NFL’s sacks leader.
“Fortunately for me, missing practice isn’t the worst thing,” Matthews said.
He made that comment before the Green Bay Packers’ season started, after he had missed most of the preseason because of a hamstring injury.
Those words are applicable again a few months later. The Packers have been holding back Matthews, who has a bothersome shin injury, on the practice field the last several weeks to preserve him for game day.
“Ideally, we’d like to have him out there taking all of the reps,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said Friday. “But, with where we are right now, that’s not the case.”
Matthews was a limited participant in all three days of practice this week as the Packers prepare to play the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. That also was the case before each of the previous three games after Matthews felt some discomfort in his left shin following Green Bay’s win against the New York Jets on Oct. 31.
“I’d say it’s more a nagging thing,” Matthews said. “It’s just sore and constantly annoying than anything else. It’s fine, and I’m fine on Sundays. It’s a little sore after the game, and it’s all about getting it right the next week.”
Matthews, who has 11 1/2 sacks, is probable for Sunday’s game. Instead of potentially aggravating the injury further, Matthews does considerably more observing than moving in practice.
Capers said Matthews has been limited to just participating in the jog-through period at the start of practice. Matthews then is relegated to the sideline as his teammates put on the helmets.
“He’s right there with the script and watching things,” Capers said. “But, it’s not like you’re out there doing it. I think that, obviously, you would like to have the guy out there practicing because you get a look at all the different plays that you’ve seen and the angles and people coming at you and all those things.”
Matthews has compensated for the missed practice time with a greater attention to studying film of the opponents.
“Of course, you’d like to have reps out there in which you could see things live,” Matthews said. “It’s tough. But, aside from missing time and seeing things develop, Sundays is really when it counts. If I’m doing everything to get healthy for Sunday, then that’s all that matters.”
Coach Mike McCarthy suggested this week that Matthews would be on the reduced practice schedule the rest of the season.
“The early indication is it’s probably going to be a season-long issue with Clay,” said McCarthy, referring to the shin injury. “That’s why we’ve taken the approach we have here in the last couple weeks.”
Matthews said the shin flared up after he had reinjured the hamstring in the same left leg three weeks earlier during an overtime loss against the Washington Redskins on Oct. 10. The hamstring injury kept Matthews out the following game.
Although Matthews has been a full-time player since returning, his production has dipped somewhat. He has only three sacks the last five games, compared to 8 1/2 the first five games before he was sidelined that one week.
Neither Matthews nor Capers believes the shin injury and diminished involvement in practice have been detrimental to Matthews’ play on game day. He did have a 62-yard interception return for a touchdown in the Nov. 7 rout of the Dallas Cowboys.
“He’s a guy that I think can still go play at a high level,” Capers said. “We expect him to go play at a high level, and I think he has been. You aren’t going to make two, three sacks every game. “He’s been playing just as if he was out there practicing all week.”
NOTES: The Packers expect to have WR Greg Jennings (foot), S Nick Collins (shoulder) and DEs Cullen Jenkins (calf) and Ryan Pickett (ankle) ready for action after they missed some practice time this week. The four starters are probable for Sunday. … Green Bay added rookie RT Bryan Bulaga (ankle) to the injury report Friday, but he also is probable to play. … McCarthy said a decision wouldn’t be made until Saturday on whether to have Dimitri Nance or fellow rookie James Starks as the backup to Brandon Jackson at running back. Nance, however, said after practice that he believes the nod would go to Starks, a sixth-round draft pick who last played at the end of his junior year in college nearly two years ago. Nance was cleared Thursday after suffering a concussion last Sunday.