Packers trying to regroup after losing Clay Matthews for 'multiple weeks'
OCT 09, 2013 5:45p ET
Packers coach Mike McCarthy confirmed Wednesday that Matthews will miss "multiple weeks."
Matthews has a Bennett's fracture on his right thumb, which is a fracture near the base of the bone. That isn't the type of injury that a player is able to play through.
"I think if Clay Matthews had his preference, he'd be playing in this week's game," McCarthy said. "But every injury is different, and this is clearly a medical decision as far as the path that he has to go and what occurred in the surgery."
When Matthews returns, McCarthy believes, the four-time Pro Bowl selection will need to wear a cast over his thumb.
Replacing Matthews' production is not going to be an easy task for Green Bay's defense, and McCarthy knows it.
"I mean, Clay Matthews is our best player on defense," McCarthy said. "But this is pro football. We've been down this road before. It's an excellent opportunity for others to step up and make plays."
Matthews already has three sacks and two forced fumbles in four games this season. He's almost always the main focus of the opposing team's offense and often faces double- and triple-teams.
However, when Matthews missed four games last season because of an injured hamstring, the Packers managed to go 3-1 during that span. So perhaps it's Green Bay's recent experience without Matthews that has the rest of the players in the locker room not hanging their heads too low.
"I am confident," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "Obviously, we're better with him out there. We're a better football team with Clay Matthews on the field. We've had injuries here in the past, and it's next-guy-up mentality."
The next guy up for the Packers is actually two players: Mike Neal and Nick Perry. Matthews' absence means that both Neal and Perry will be expected to perform in every-down roles. Previously, Neal and Perry would often switch back and forth as the outside linebacker opposite Matthews.
"Obviously, Mike and Nick, their responsibility has gone up with the absence of Clay," McCarthy said. "So, I really just want them to focus on the way they have been and build on what they accomplished against Detroit. Mike and Nick, that was their best performance to date, so you want them to build off that and we'll utilize that."
Perry, who was Green Bay's first-round pick in 2012, was replaced in the starting lineup in Week 5 against the Detroit Lions in favor of Neal. But coming off the bench, Perry had the first two-sack game of his career.
Neal is still transitioning from being a 304-pound defensive lineman to a 275-pound outside linebacker. He recorded a sack in Week 5, but his production before that had also been very good, which led to his promotion.
"That might have been my best game period," Neal said. "Ever."
Neal accepts that he isn't going to contribute a 13-sack season like Matthews. As a second-round pick in 2010 who was injured more often than not in his first two NFL seasons, Neal is just happy that he's a major part of the defensive game plan.
"The biggest thing with me is just playing football the way Mike Neal knows how to play," Neal said. "I think one of the biggest things with me is I'm not as relentless as Clay but I think the mindset of 'I don't like to get beat on any play' gives me a lot to hang my hat on."
Matthews is the biggest name on the Packers' injury report, but he's not even the only starting linebacker who has been ruled out for Sunday's Week 6 game on the road against the Baltimore Ravens. Inside linebacker Brad Jones is out with a hamstring injury that he suffered in Week 5. Jones injured his hamstring in preseason, but this is to his other hamstring.
"Brad, I have no reason to believe it's going to be very long based on the discussions (Tuesday) with our medical staff," McCarthy said. "He will not be available this week, and, hopefully, we feel better about it next week."
Green Bay also ruled out running back James Starks (knee) and backup offensive lineman Greg Van Roten (foot).
Every other Wednesday this season, the Packers have ruled out cornerback Casey Hayward (hamstring) for the upcoming game, but that was not the case this week. Hayward did not participate in practice Wednesday, but it is an encouraging sign for him that Green Bay has not yet ruled him out.
"He's getting better," McCarthy said of Hayward. "A little sore after what he went through last week. We'll see where he is tomorrow. This time last week, he was able to do some individual work on Thursday. So that's the hope."
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