GREEN BAY – The Packers will take the full week to determine Clay Matthews’ availability for Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The six-time Pro Bowl linebacker didn’t practice Wednesday due to the groin injury he sustained during last Sunday’s game against Baltimore. It’s the first practice Matthews has missed this season and the first time he’s been on the injury report since Week 1.
Matthews got off to a fast start against the Ravens, notching his first sack since Week 4 before having to drop out after 13 plays with the injury and not returning.
“I feel good,” said Matthews after practice Wednesday. “I still have some obstacles to overcome, dealing with the groin. Mike (McCarthy) does a good job, and I feel like we have a good relationship, he'll probably allow me to take it all the way up to game time. It's one of those things that we may not want to push it as well and set myself back.”
After fighting through hamstring, shoulder and ankle injuries for much of last year, Matthews has been one of the Packers’ most healthy and active defenders this season.
He’s ranks third on the defense in playing time with 485 snaps, seeing roughly 80 percent of the defensive snaps prior to his injury against Baltimore.
If Matthews can’t play Sunday, the Packers have options at outside linebacker. Along with Kyler Fackrell notching his first sack of the year against Baltimore, linebacker Nick Perry has put an early-season hand injury behind him to lead the Packers with seven sacks this season.
Veteran Ahmad Brooks returned two weeks ago from a back injury and rookie Vince Biegel now has three games under his belt after spending the first seven games on the physically unable to perform list due to offseason foot surgery.
“He’ll have some more opportunities,” said Matthews of Biegel. “Guys like Fackrell, Ahmad and obviously Nick being in there, as well. They'll all be ready if that's the case. Hopefully it's not, but Vince and everybody else – we're confident about the depth which we have, doing what we need to at that position.”
Days away from matching up against the NFL’s leading receiver in Antonio Brown, the Packers’ secondary received some good news with rookie cornerback Kevin King (shoulder) and safety Morgan Burnett (groin) returning to practice.
King was questionable to play last Sunday against Baltimore, but missed his second game of the season due to the shoulder issue. Burnett missed the past two games but actually was a full participant in Wednesday’s non-padded work.
The Packers have needed to do some shuffling with the secondary without Burnett the past two weeks, with rookie safety Josh Jones filling in as the hybrid linebacker in the “Nitro” nickel package and reserve safeties Marwin Evans and Jermaine Whitehead lending a hand in the Packers’ dime sub-package.
Having Burnett available against the league’s eighth-ranked passing offense could be a big plus for a defense that could be without Matthews and defensive tackle Kenny Clark (ankle).
“‘Mo’ is great to have out there,” said King, who was limited Wednesday. “He’s a veteran guy and one of our leaders on defense, and on this team. Having him out there is like a security blanket. He knows where to be and he’s a proven player in this league. Having a guy like that is always a plus no matter who you’re playing against.”