Clubbed hand hinders Clay Matthews

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Lori Nickel, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Monday, November 11, 2013

GREEN BAY—Standing in front of his locker, Clay Matthews barely had the dexterity to twist his long blond hair into a ponytail with his surgically repaired right thumb Sunday afternoon.

So you can imagine what tackling with a concrete beehive taped around the thumb was like.

Playing in his first game since injuring his right thumb while sacking Detroit’s Matthew Stafford in Week 5, Matthews had one solo tackle and one assist in the loss to Philadelphia at Lambeau Field. Add a roughing the passer penalty and basically Matthews had more annoyed looks on his face than he had sacks, tackles for loss or quarterback hurries against the Eagles.

“I know what I can contribute on this defense,” Matthews said. “And it’s frustrating when you’re limited physically.”

If ever the Packers needed Matthews’ surge up the gaps and punches at the ball carrier, it was Sunday. Green Bay was without quarterback Aaron Rodgers, lost his backup and then even more players to injuries throughout the game, and then its defense wilted on the Eagles’ explosive plays.

Matthews’ broken right thumb—a Bennett’s fracture—was so damaging it required surgery in early October for stabilization and he missed four games. He just had the pins pulled out last Monday, and he’s still fighting pain with the thumb still swollen, bruised and bandaged.

With doctors and trainers reassuring Matthews that it would be very difficult to reinjure the hand while wearing a club, Matthews returned to the field—and admitted that they are all still pushing the timeline with this quick return. But in his mind, he was able to play and so there was no question he would, even if it essentially meant he was playing with one arm tied behind his back.

“There were a multitude of guys going down, at an alarming rate, too,” Matthews said. “Nick Perry went down at the outside linebacker spot where we’re already thin.

“I’m playing through for a multitude of reasons. First, I’m able to, despite the pain, but at the same time, there are a few injuries out there, and we’re missing a few leaders, not just on defense, but throughout the team. It’s the responsibility for everyone on this team to not only pick up their game but help improve this team.

“As long as I can be out there in any form or fashion, I’m going to be.”

It’s not that his presence wasn’t felt. It just wasn’t beast mode. He still could run laterally and force Eagles running back LeSean McCoy to the outside. He just couldn’t rope anyone down.

He still could churn those legs and twist and torque around blockers. It just wasn’t very easy to separate or set the edge.

“I tried the best I could with one hand,” Matthews said. “I tried to stick the club in when I could.”

Matthews said he expects to play better with the club next week at New York. The club may even be a bit smaller, which won’t change its challenges but might make Matthews more comfortable. He said he needs to get used to throwing it in there on plays.

Matthews said the return to live action Sunday was valuable. Still, he’s looking forward to losing the whole club and playing with just a brace at some point. Then maybe he wouldn’t get calls like the roughing one on Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles in the second quarter.

“I understand why it was called,” Matthews said. “At the same time, I tried to let them know, I’m out here with one hand. We still held him on the third down to a field goal, but I’ll put that on my hat and will obviously have to be a little smarter.”

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