With giant club on hand, Clay Matthews hopes to play Sunday

GREEN BAY, Wis. — The exact dimensions are unknown, but the
size of the club on Clay Matthews’ right hand is simply massive. While the
Green Bay Packers will likely get their star outside linebacker back on the
field this weekend, Matthews won’t look quite the same. He also probably won’t
play quite the same.

“I feel like in my position, obviously you need to have
great hands, and when you take one away it definitely hinders your game a
little bit,” Matthews said.

Matthews is one month removed from undergoing surgery on the
Bennett’s fracture he suffered on his right thumb. The original plan was for
Matthews to miss at least four games, and if he plays Sunday against the
Philadelphia Eagles, he will have returned at the earliest projection of his
timeline.

“I think so,” Matthews said when asked if he’ll
play Sunday. “Obviously it’s going to be coach’s decision, but I’d like to
be out there. As to what extent, I don’t know. So I’m just trying to get ready
to help out in any way which I can.”

Matthews had the pins removed from his thumb Monday, and two
days later, he was already practicing, albeit as a limited participant. He’s
been working on ways to use his hands, which is a difficult process considering
the limitations on his right side.

“I’ll try and do the best I can to help this team out
with one arm,” Matthews said.

One arm? Basically.

For a player who is used to racking up sacks in bunches,
that could be a challenge for Matthews over the next few games.

“I’ve just got to get used to playing a little more
with one hand and obviously being comfortable with throwing it in there,”
Matthews said. “I’m taking baby steps in coming back to practice (this
week), trying to get a few more reps and become more comfortable throwing it in
there when it’s live action.”

Matthews won’t be the first Packers player to wear a club in
recent years, as safety Morgan Burnett and former defensive lineman Cullen
Jenkins have both done so. However, last season, Matthews watched as fellow
outside linebacker Nick Perry tried to play with a cast on his injured left
wrist.

“(Perry) says ‘It sucks,’ so that’s probably the only
similarity, and I would agree with that,” Matthews said. “So, I don’t
know, I mean, it does suck, so I would echo that message, but I’ll do the best
I can with it.”

Coach Mike McCarthy explained how each club is custom-fit
based on the injury and technique of the player wearing it.

“It looks like he’s getting a little more comfortable,
(but) he’s still trying to find the right fit,” McCarthy said. “It
was different today than (Wednesday), so I’m curious to see how he felt.”

For the most part, Matthews feels fine. He just doesn’t feel
normal.

If Matthews plays Sunday as expected, he’s not worried about
the Eagles trying to exploit his injury. With a club that size, it’s not like
it can be easily manipulated by an opposing offensive lineman.

“It’d probably hurt them more than it’d hurt me,”
Matthews said. “No, I’m not worried about it. I’m worried about the fact
that in certain situations I need to be able to hold the edge or fit in a gap,
and with one arm, it’s hard to do that. I need to be more comfortable throwing
it in there, and I will, and it has continued to progress.

“Hopefully by the time Sunday rolls around it will be
as if playing with two hands, just one is clubbed up.”

A week ago, Matthews thought that Green Bay’s defense didn’t
really need him back. At that point, the Packers had won three consecutive
games with Matthews sidelined and the defense had been performing well. Then,
Monday night against Chicago, a lot of the positive momentum that Green Bay’s
defense had built up was lost. The Bears scored 27 points and had 442 yards of
offense with backup quarterback Josh McCown, while the Packers failed to force
a turnover and had just one sack.

That game turned up the urgency for Matthews to return as
soon as possible.

“It’s been difficult,” Matthews said of the wait
to be medically cleared. “Obviously it’s one thing for your body to heal,
you have to accept that. But as far as waiting, it’s very difficult, especially
for me. I want to be out there helping this team, especially when you lose a
game. It’s difficult, but I’m happy that we’re taking a step in the right
direction of returning, and that’s most important.”

Follow Paul Imig on Twitter