Thumbs up: Matthews sees no limitations coming off injury

Clay Matthews missed all of the offseason programs after having to undergo two thumb surgeries. While not 100 percent healthy, Matthews says he's close and says he won't be limited in the preseason or regular season.

Packers linebacker Clay Matthews stretches during training camp at Ray Nitschke Field in Green Bay recently. Matthews insists he has recovered nicely from last year's thumb issues.  

Benny Sieu / USA TODAY Sports

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Clay Matthews had passed every test that his twice-surgically repaired thumb gave him through the Green Bay Packers' first 10 training camp practices. Wearing a protective splint, Matthews' fingers have been free, allowing him to do what he does best: rush the quarterback.

But in the Packers' final practice before their first preseason game, Matthews was presented with a challenge to his thumb that he's not as accustomed to. Dropping back in coverage, the two-time All-Pro outside linebacker had a chance for an interception that went through his hands and fell incomplete.

While it's reasonable to think that perhaps Matthews was concerned about his thumb when he saw Matt Flynn's pass flying at him, that was apparently not the case.

"Just a missed ball," Matthews said. "Just a missed interception. Thanks for reminding me, though. I appreciate that. Flynn put a little extra zip on that, and it just kind of caught me off-guard. It won't happen on game day."

When Matthews returned last season in Week 10 after initially suffering a Bennett's fracture to his right thumb one month earlier, he was wearing a giant club around his entire hand.

"It wasn't quite the same Clay as we've been grown used to," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said.

Over the following six weeks, though, Matthews eventually got down to wearing a smaller brace. But that's when he broke that same thumb a second time and was out the rest of the season, including Green Bay's home playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

Matthews missed the entire offseason program, including minicamp. However, after resting and healing for seven months, Matthews has been on the field for every training camp practice.

"I've been very critical of myself watching film as far as really looking at if the hand's an issue," Matthews said. "I can definitely say that it's coming along tremendously. Obviously I'm getting more and more comfortable each and every single day."

There is one very important qualifier to the health of Matthews' thumb.

"It's still not 100 percent, but it's getting close," Matthews said. "It's getting stronger every single day, and I feel good about the progress I'm making. Probably a little slower than in years prior, obviously, with overcoming injury, but with that being said, I think it's moving in a great direction along with the defense.

"I don't see there to be any limitations, not only with the preseason games but the upcoming season."

From Capers' perspective, he's just happy that Matthews has been on the field. Not only is that important for Matthews himself, it's critical that he and offseason acquisition Julius Peppers have as much time together as possible before the regular season begins.

And unlike what Capers saw midway through last season, the Matthews he's seen so far in training camp looks like the one who recorded 50 sacks in five NFL seasons.

"It certainly looks like to me like he has," Capers said. "You know, you don't know until you start playing the games, but I think he feels good about his hand, where it is. He's participated in all the reps we've planned for him."

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