Clay Matthews adjusting to cast, seeing progress in thumb
NOV 14, 2013 5:57p ET
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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