Sacks leader Matthews OK with reduced practice
Practice is a different story for the NFL's sacks leader.
"Fortunately for me, missing practice isn't the worst thing," Matthews said.
He said that before the season started, after he had missed most of the preseason because of a hamstring injury.
Those feelings are applicable again a few months later. The Packers have been reducing the practice load of Matthews, who has a shin injury, the past several weeks to preserve him for game day.
"Ideally, we'd like to have him out there taking all of the reps," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said Friday. "But, with where we are right now, that's not the case."
Matthews was a limited participant in all three days of practice this week as the Packers (7-4) get ready for the San Francisco 49ers (4-7) on Sunday.
That also was the case before each of the previous three games after Matthews felt discomfort in his left shin following Green Bay's win against the New York Jets on Oct. 31.
"I'd say it's more a nagging thing," Matthews said. "It's just sore and constantly annoying than anything else. It's fine, and I'm fine on Sundays. It's a little sore after the game, and it's all about getting it right the next week."
Matthews, who has 11½ sacks, is probable for Sunday's game. Instead of potentially aggravating the injury, Matthews does considerably more observing than moving in practice.
Capers said Matthews has been limited to just participating in the jog-through period at the start of practice. Matthews then is relegated to the sideline as his teammates put on the helmets.
"He's right there with the script and watching things," Capers said. "But, it's not like you're out there doing it. I think that, obviously, you would like to have the guy out there practicing because you get a look at all the different plays that you've seen and the angles and people coming at you and all those things."
Matthews has made use of the missed practice time with a greater attention to studying film.
"Of course, you'd like to have reps out there in which you could see things live," Matthews said. "It's tough. But, aside from missing time and seeing things develop, Sundays is really when it counts. If I'm doing everything to get healthy for Sunday, then that's all that matters."
Coach Mike McCarthy said this week that Matthews would be on the reduced practice schedule the rest of the season.
"The early indication is it's probably going to be a season-long issue with Clay," said McCarthy, referring to the shin injury. "That's why we've taken the approach we have here in the last couple weeks."
Matthews said the shin flared up after he had reinjured the hamstring in his left leg three weeks earlier during an overtime loss against the Washington Redskins on Oct. 10. The hamstring injury kept Matthews out the following game.
Although Matthews has been a full-time player since returning, his production has dipped somewhat. He has only three sacks the past five games, compared to 8½ the first five games before he was sidelined that one week.
Neither Matthews nor Capers believes the shin injury and diminished involvement in practice have been detrimental to Matthews' play. He did have a 62-yard interception return for a touchdown in the Nov. 7 win over the Dallas Cowboys.
"He's a guy that I think can still go play at a high level," Capers said. "We expect him to go play at a high level, and I think he has been. You aren't going to make two, three sacks every game. "He's been playing just as if he was out there practicing all week."