Kevin Greene never had to wear a club during his 15 NFL seasons, but he won’t forget the time he broke his hand against the Green Bay Packers.
Now in his fifth season as the team’s outside linebackers coach, the five-time Pro Bowl linebacker was entering his third season with the Pittsburgh Steelers when the injury occurred in a 36-13 preseason loss on Aug. 13, 1995.
Greene missed the rest of the preseason, but returned for the regular-season opener sporting a cast that freed his fingers but left him slightly restricted in his pass rush.
So Greene adapted, healed and eventually made the Pro Bowl with his first sack of the year coming with the cast.
Now, his protégé, Clay Matthews, will have to learn to be effective without his full arsenal when the Packers host the Philadelphia Eagles this Sunday at Lambeau Field.
Matthews missed a month after undergoing surgery for a Bennett’s fracture, an injury Greene cautions was much more severe than what he dealt with. He’s listed as probable for Sunday and will play with his right hand fully covered by a club resembling an oversized cotton swab.
Will he be able to be effective?
“He’s Clay Matthews,” Greene said. “He’s Clay. I think Clay with one hand, I like those odds.”
Matthews had 18 tackles and three sacks in four games before suffering the injury on a sack of Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford in a 22-9 win over the Lions last month.
It required surgery to set the break and was casted until prior to Monday’s game against Chicago. He was a limited participant in practice all week, but also spent time with Greene on how to play with the club.
“He’s going to get in there and he’s going to do some things that are going to hurt,” Matthews said. “I don’t think there’s a way around pain. What he’s going to do, he’s going to be in pain. He’s going to find what he can push through and what he needs to be a little careful doing with it. He’ll figure all that stuff out. I have confidence in that. He’s just going to have to find a way around it and try to be as successful as he can.”
The same will go for Perry if he’s able to play in his first game since breaking his foot on a sack of Joe Flacco in a 19-17 win over Baltimore last month and missing the last three games.
He’s questionable for Sunday, but practiced all week on a limited basis like Matthews. The possible return of the two players couldn’t have come with better timing with Mike Neal missing practice time with a knee injury and Andy Mulumba doubtful for Sunday with an ankle issue.
That leaves only one outside linebacker, Nate Palmer, not on the injury report, but that’s football, according to Greene.
“That’s just the nature of the game. The game is predicated on physical brutality,” Greene said. “We’re all humans and we’re built out of flesh and bone and that (stuff) gives away, it breaks. It gets wounded. Every one of those guys in the locker room right now, every one of them is dealing with something. They’re dealing with something that is a pain in their (butt), it hurts them and it’s nagging them and that’s the nature of the game.
"If there’s somebody in the locker room that doesn’t have little nicks and bumps and bruises right now, then they don’t really belong in the locker room because they’re not a football player.”