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.”

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