GREEN BAY—Clay Matthews may already have torn that bulky club off his right hand for the last time.
Matthews has practiced this week with his right wrist in a cast that keeps his fingers exposed, a dramatic change from a week ago. He said on Thursday that if things continue to go well in practice, he should get the OK to use the new device in the Packers’ game Sunday against the Giants.
“Yes, that will leave my fingers free, which means more sacks and more tackles,” the smiling Matthews said.
Matthews’ limitations in last week’s game were no joke, however. He couldn’t grab anything with his right hand, which was wrapped up to protect his surgically repaired broken thumb, and he couldn’t push or create any leverage with it.
He was credited with only a couple of tackles against the Eagles, and no sacks, hits or hurries on the quarterback. Statistically, it wasn’t a typical Matthews game, because he wasn’t the typical Matthews.
He admitted “it didn’t look pretty at times,” and that “it was hard watching” himself look like that on film. He came up with an interesting analogy to explain the whole experience of playing with a club for the first time in his football life.
“It’s kind of like a cat, when you cut its whiskers off, it just loses its balance,” he said. “I’ve never done that before, but I’ve heard that’s what happens. That’s how I felt. You have to overcome that.
“So I’m hoping with my fingers back, I’ll be like a feline who got his whiskers back, and I’ll be able to be more spry out there.”
The Packers will take any version of the cat that has made the Pro Bowl roster each of the previous four years. The defense doesn’t have a sack from an outside linebacker in any of the last four games, and the turnovers have dried up since Matthews was in the middle of a four-takeaway spree in the first half at Cincinnati in Week 3.
It doesn’t help that Matthews’ mates at outside linebacker aren’t the picture of health, either. Nick Perry (foot/ankle) probably won’t practice this week, according to Head Coach Mike McCarthy, and likely will miss the game. Mike Neal (abdominal) has a better chance to play but hasn’t practiced this week, and Andy Mulumba (ankle) has been limited in practice after missing last week’s game.
The only outside linebacker not on the team’s injury report is rookie sixth-round draft pick Nate Palmer, who didn’t play a single defensive snap from scrimmage until Week 6, the game after Matthews broke his thumb.
“We were out there with two outside linebackers today,” Matthews said, referring to practice. “We just have to make do and weather the storm until our numbers get back and hopefully get a few wins in the meantime.”
McCarthy said Matthews looks a lot better on the practice field than he did a week ago, so it’s obvious that losing the club is making a difference.
Matthews cautioned that he still won’t be 100 percent, however, not with his wrist immobilized, and not when he’s less than two weeks from having the surgical pins removed from this thumb.
But he should no longer be a one-armed defender at a playmaking position, either, and that’s good news for a defense in need of a turn of fortune right quick.
“Will I be ahead of where I was last week? Absolutely,” Matthews said. “I think that’s the most important thing, that we’re progressing moving forward, and that is what’s happening.” Additional coverage - Nov. 14