Clay Matthews adjusting to cast, seeing progress in thumb

GREEN BAY, Wis. — There are only brief moments each day in

which Clay Matthews isn’t required to wear some type of brace on his right

hand. Even when he’s sleeping, the surgically repaired right thumb of the Green

Bay Packers’ star outside linebacker is protected. But it’s through daily

activities — Matthews listed doing dishes and making the bed — that he’s slowly

seeing improvements in movement and strength.

Matthews admitted that if he was a member of “normal

society,” recovering from a Bennett’s fracture wouldn’t be too challenging.

Rushing the passer and tackling players to the ground are not the type of tasks

that an average citizen has to worry about, though. And those assignments are a

lot simpler for Matthews to achieve when he has two hands.

So when Matthews returned from a four-game absence last

weekend fitted with a giant club, the job that he often makes look quite easy

was a lot harder than he was used to.

“I have very high expectations for myself no matter what the

case is, but it was one of those things where I had to realize that I’m going

to go out there and do the best that I can do, and a lot of times the best

wasn’t the standard that I hold myself to,” Matthews said.

Matthews played 40 snaps against the Philadelphia Eagles,

producing just two tackles, no sacks and no quarterback pressures. Certainly

not the type of performance that has gotten him voted to the Pro Bowl in each

of his first four NFL seasons. It wasn’t a fun game for him to watch the film

of, either, especially considering that the coaching staff didn’t grade him out

on any sort of curve.

“I don’t want to be held to any exception, like, ‘Well,

that’s OK because you have one hand,’” Matthews said. “It’s part of the deal. I

had realistic expectations for myself going into that game, and it’s obviously

frustrating.”

Without sharing too many specifics, Matthews noted that it

wasn’t graded as the worst game of his NFL career, but it was close.

“I did well as far as mentality knowing what I’m supposed to

do, but that’s only half the battle,” Matthews said. “Physically you have to

make plays and I only had a few of those.”

The timeline that Matthews was given when the injury

originally occurred on Oct. 6 was getting the pins out of the thumb after six

weeks and then resting a while longer before playing again. The six-week window

isn’t up until Sunday, but Matthews is already back. He called

that “a small, individual victory.”

Coach Mike McCarthy stated the obvious this week, saying

that Matthews “struggled with it (the club) at times,” explaining that the

two-time All-Pro selection “is such a hands player,” and thus, had no chance to

be as effective as usual.

“But I tried,” Matthews said.

Matthews also had an interesting analogy about what it was

like playing with that monstrosity engulfing his right hand.

“It’s kind of like a cat — cut its whiskers off, it just

loses its balance,” Matthews said. “I’ve never done that before, but I’ve heard

that’s what happens. That’s how I felt.”

Matthews is resigned to the idea that he’ll “probably have

to wear some type of protection throughout the whole year.” However, after one

game with what was unofficially the biggest club ever worn on game day,

Matthews will now be wearing something significantly more workable. It’s a

spica cast — “your general fiberglass cast” — that he’s pushing doctors to

let him play with.

“I’m hoping with my fingers back, I’ll be like a feline who

got his whiskers back and then I’ll be able to be more spry out there,”

Matthews said.

Matthews added that having his fingers free “means more sacks

and more sacks.” At his current pace, Matthews would finish this season with

the fewest sacks of his career. Granted, he missed four games, but Matthews has

only three sacks past the midway point of the regular season. This from a guy

who had 13.5 sacks last season and signed a five-year, $66 million extension

this offseason.

The Packers need Matthews to perform like the player he

often is when healthy. Green Bay’s defense has fallen apart in recent weeks and

is now ranked 21st in passing yards allowed, 13th in rushing yards allowed and

is last in the league in interceptions.

While Matthews wasn’t his normal self, the Packers were just

glad to have him back on the field. As the protective device on his right hand

gets smaller and smaller, his play will likely get better and better.

“I’m just hoping that I’ll continue to improve each week

until I hopefully I get back to what everyone is used to seeing,” Matthews

said.

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