Packer notes: Green Bay forced to absorb another Matthews injury

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Tom Silverstein, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Monday, October 7, 2013

GREEN BAY—The Green Bay Packers sweated out the hamstring pull Clay Matthews suffered against Cincinnati two weeks ago. Now they'll sweat out the broken thumb he suffered against the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

A league source confirmed that Matthews had broken the thumb and would be evaluated this week to see what the proper course of action should be. In some instances, players can play with a large, soft cast on their hand to protect the break and in some cases it can take six weeks for the injury to heal.

The worst-case scenario would be that Matthews would need surgery, in which it wouldn't be out of the question that he would be out for the season. The Packers still are able to put one player on injured reserve/designated for return, which would allow them to sign a player to take Matthews' spot but would require him to be out a minimum of six weeks.

But that would only happen if they knew Matthews would be out at least six games.

FOX Sports 1 was the first to report that Matthews had broken his thumb.

Among the players who have played with clubs on their hand are end Cullen Jenkins, safety Morgan Burnett, linebacker Brad Jones and linebacker Brandon Chillar. Players who have had the most trouble with broken thumbs are quarterbacks, including Jacksonville's Blaine Gabbert this year, Chicago's Jay Cutler in 2011 and the Packers' Brett Favre in 1999.

Cutler was the only one who needed surgery and he was put on injured reserve with six weeks to go in the season.

Matthews appeared to suffer the injury on the final play of the third quarter when he notched his third sack of the season, against Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. Up to that point, Matthews, who had injured his hamstring against the Bengals on Sept. 22, appeared to be getting his groove back.

If Matthews is out for an extended period, the Packers will hope that the combination they used against the Lions will play as well as it did.

Starting left outside linebacker Nick Perry, a 2012 first-round pick, was benched and replaced by Mike Neal, who until this season had been a defensive end. Neal has been feeling more and more comfortable at his new position, and when Perry played poorly against the Bengals the decision was made to go with Neal.

"I knew that from earlier in the week," Perry said of being benched. "There really wasn't anything I could do. I don't have an issue with that. We all compete against one another. I had a bad game (against Cincinnati) and things didn't go the best for me the first couple of games."

Neal responded well to the change and finished with six tackles, a sack and a quarterback hit. It was easily Neal's best all-around game as a linebacker.

"People get hung up on numbers too much," said Neal, who came into the game with 12 tackles, no sacks, no quarterback hits and an interception in three games. "I haven't had a losing performance since I've been playing outside linebacker. I've just been doing my job.

"The opportunities for the plays come and I think you have to just stay patient and wait for them. Things were just falling into my lap and you have to cash in on them. You have to make those plays and it went well for me."

Perry did not throw in the towel after getting benched. Instead he sacked Stafford twice, knocked him down another time, forced a fumble and finished with five tackles. It was by far the best game of his 10-game pro career.

The one thing that was noticeable about Perry's performance was that he seemed more comfortable rushing from the right side than from the one he usually plays. Perry played the right side in college and it might just seem more natural to him.

More should be known about Matthews' injury Monday and whether Perry will have to be reinserted into the lineup.

More injuries

Not only did the Packers lose Brad Jones, one of their starting inside linebackers, but they also lost his backup.

Jones left the game in the first half with a hamstring pull. He had suffered a hamstring pull against Seattle in the third preseason game but managed to return in time for the regular-season opener and has not missed a start.

It is not known if he injured the same hamstring.

Jones' backup, Robert Francois, tore his right Achilles tendon on the same series Matthews got hurt and will be lost for the season. His loss will especially be felt on special teams, where he came in ranked tied for third in tackles with two and had forced a fumble.

The coaches went with Jamari Lattimore over rookie Sam Barrington to replace Francois. If Jones is out this week, Lattimore would be the most likely starter.

Welcome return

For those who wondered how much safety Morgan Burnett meant to the defense, all they needed to do was look at a third-quarter play in the end zone.

Stafford uncorked an arching shot to wide receiver Patrick Edwards running down the middle of the field and Burnett, who had to retreat from his deep position, dived to make a play on the ball. Reaching out, he deflected the pass just before it landed in Edwards' hands.

"It was my left hand and it was a game of inches," Burnett said. "For once it worked in my favor. I got my fingertips on it. I timed it up perfectly."

Burnett was making his regular-season debut after missing the first month with a hamstring pull. Burnett, who last year did not miss a single play, had five tackles to go with his pass breakup.

A word to the wise

Just before the Packers went out for the second half, wide receiver James Jones decided to speak to his teammates.

Jones got up and reminded the team what was at stake.

"Basically, he was saying, 'We can't go 1-3,'" cornerback Davon House said.

Jones then went out and caught two passes for 122 yards, including an 83-yard touchdown that gave the Packers a 22-9 lead.

Modest returns

Special teams coach Shawn Slocum used a combination of Randall Cobb, Micah Hyde and Johnathan Franklin to handle the return duties that Jeremy Ross previously held.

Cobb and Hyde shared the punt returns and Franklin handled kickoffs.

Cobb and Hyde both fielded two punts for 7 yards.

Franklin did not get an attempt.

Odds and ends

One of the reasons the Packers were only up by three points heading into halftime was that tight end Ryan Taylor dropped a sure touchdown pass in the second quarter. ... Safety Jerron McMillian can expect a letter in the mail from the NFL this week. He was flagged for a hit on a defenseless player with just over 2 minutes left in the game. ... Lions coach Jim Schwartz made the curious decision to call a timeout after the Packers went into victory formation to end the game. The Packers punted and then Schwartz had Stafford kneel down for the final play. ... Defensive end C.J. Wilson was among the seven inactive players.

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