GREEN BAY — Clay Matthews returned to practice in a limited capacity Thursday, a sign of progress that the Packers’ linebacker hopes could be a “good indicator” of his availability for Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons.
Matthews said he felt his hamstring tighten up near the end of the Packers’ 26-10 win over Chicago a week ago, causing him to play only 27 of 48 defensive snaps.
The six-time Pro Bowler sat out of last month’s 34-27 win over Detroit due to a hamstring injury and played a modest 28 of 56 defensive snaps in his return game against Dallas on Oct. 16.
Matthews told reporters on Thursday that his latest strain isn’t as serious as the one he sustained against Minnesota in Week 2.
The biggest concern he and the training staff have is making sure he stays healthy through the 10-game gauntlet the Packers are facing to finish the regular season.
“Same kind of deal but I feel like I’m further along,” Matthews said. “I think we’re just being smart and cautious especially with this 10-game run we have. You hate for something to happen and be out several weeks. I think we’re trying to be smart in that regard.”
Matthews said playing at the Georgia Dome won’t factor into whether he suits up, though he admitted turf surfaces can be more taxing on the body.
If everything goes according to plan, Matthews hopes to be on the field for another encounter with his cousin, Jake, the Falcons’ starting left tackle and the son of Pro Football Hall of Fame center Bruce Matthews.
Jake, who was the sixth overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, had a chance to square off with his older cousin when the Packers faced Atlanta at Lambeau Field in December 2014.
Clay finished with five tackles and a sack in a 43-37 win.
“It’s been fun watching him on tape,” Matthews said. “He’s progressed a lot for these last two years since I saw him as a rookie. Really, their entire offense is a lot better than we had seen. That makes it even more fun. It’s fun to see the success he’s had.”
The Packers’ ability to sustain the pass rush will be critical this weekend. The Falcons currently lead the NFL in total yards (433.6 yards per game) and scoring (32.7 ppg).
The best way to disrupt Matt Ryan’s momentum is to get after the veteran quarterback, and Matthews’ presence would go a long way in helping turn up on the pressure in the pocket.
“I feel like I’ve been doing this for several years now. I know my body better than anyone,” Matthews said. “When it’s time to go, it’s time to go. If there’s ever an unfortunate chance I can’t go, we’ll make a smart and well-informed decision.”
Lang sits: T.J. Lang sat out of Thursday’s padded practice with a nagging hip injury, but the Packers’ starting right guard expects to be ready for Sunday’s showdown with the Falcons.
Lang has been on the team’s injury report with the hip for the past two weeks but hasn’t missed a start. In fact, the eighth-year veteran has missed only two games since joining the starting lineup in 2011.
Lang missed the first 16 offensive snaps coming out of halftime against the Bears but returned to finish the game.
“I think last week was tough with it being a short week with the game on Thursday,” Lang said. “I knew that was going to be a tough game. I ended up coming in at halftime and doing a little bit of work to loosen up and get back in there. (Thursday) was just a little bit of a rest day. Not really many concerns on my end about being available for Sunday.”
Abbrederis waived: The Packers waived receiver Jared Abbrederis off injured reserve on Thursday. He was placed on IR earlier this week with a quad injury.
Abbrederis, a native of Wautoma who was drafted in the fifth round in 2014, caught 10 passes for 119 yards in 15 regular-season games for the Packers.