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Matthews gets early shot with Pack's No. 1 defense

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Associated Press
August 4, 2009
— It didn't take very long for rookie linebacker Clay Matthews III to get a significant shot at playing with the Green Bay Packers' first-team defense.

Matthews, a first-round pick out of Southern California, took the majority of snaps at outside linebacker with the No. 1 defense in Monday afternoon's practice ahead of second-year player Jeremy Thompson, who opened training camp with the first team.


Matthews downplayed what could be interpreted as an on-field promotion, calling Thompson a "great" player and noting that there's still a long time left in training camp to compete for the job.


"They just said they're going to give me an opportunity today to show what I have," Matthews said. "They brought me here for a reason, and that's to show what I've got. Like I said, it's a good competition and we'll go back and forth."


Still, Packers coach Mike McCarthy likes what he sees.


"We've been very pleased with the progress Clay has made so far, so we've split the reps," McCarthy said. "We primarily worked Clay with the (number) ones today, and that will be a good competition throughout camp we anticipate with him and Jeremy."


Thompson, a fourth-round draft pick out of Wake Forest last year, knows he's fighting for a starting job.


"This is competition," Thompson said. "The best player will play. We're just trying to push each other."


DESHAWN'S DEVELOPMENT: Packers coaches have never questioned the talent of running back DeShawn Wynn, but they've been frustrated with his frequent injuries and conditioning issues to the point that they cut him last August, re-signed him a few days later, then brought him back to the active roster last October.

Now Wynn is earning praise from McCarthy.


"I'm very, very impressed with DeShawn Wynn," McCarthy said. "I think he's having an outstanding training camp so far."


Wynn, originally a seventh-round draft pick out of Florida in 2007, said he focused on his diet fewer cheeseburgers and less pizza and flexibility during the offseason to help ward off injuries.


While Wynn appreciates McCarthy's praise, he doesn't want to become complacent.


"It's always good to hear some positives come from the head coach," Wynn said. "But at the same time, it's nothing that you can sit there and think about, that everything's going good. I'll be happier if he says that three or four weeks from now."


NOTES: Matthews acknowledged that fellow first-round draft pick B.J. Raji is falling somewhat behind while he sits out training camp and waits to work out a contract. But Matthews said he expects Raji to get back up to speed quickly once the deal gets done. "I don't think it'll be a problem," Matthews said. ... McCarthy said defensive lineman Johnny Jolly, who hurt his ankle Sunday, could sit out a week. ... Offensive lineman Daryn Colledge spent a portion of practice with a large ice pack on his right thigh after getting kneed in the leg but didn't think the injury was a big deal. "I plan on being back tomorrow morning," Colledge said. With Colledge out, the Packers experimented with Duke Preston, Tony Moll and Jason Spitz at left guard. ... Kicker Mason Crosby has spent extra time in the film room after a shaky start to training camp. "I hate missing," Crosby said. "I'm a competitor, and in those type of situations, I hate when that happens."

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