GREEN BAY – Clay Matthews said he was able to participate in some team drills during Thursday’s practice, which the Green Bay Packers outside linebacker hopes is “a good indicator” he’ll play Sunday at the Atlanta Falcons.
Matthews is on the team’s injury report for the second time this season because of a strained hamstring. He missed the Packers' Week 3 win over the Detroit Lions because of the same injury.
“Same kind of deal,” Matthews said, “but I feel like I’m further along.”
Matthews left near the end of the Packers' win over the Chicago Bears last week after feeling “tightness” in his hamstring. He did not practice Wednesday, but he was upgraded to “limited” during Thursday’s practice.
“I think we’re just being smart and cautious,” Matthews said, “especially with this 10-game run in which we have mini bye. You’d hate for something to happen, and be out several weeks.”
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The Packers need their best edge rusher to be not only available Sunday but also productive. Their secondary will be without its top two cornerbacks, if not its top three. Sam Shields is on injured reserve, Damarious Randall is recovering from groin surgery, and a groin injury prevented Quinten Rollins from practicing for a second straight week.
It isn’t ideal for a team preparing to play Falcons receiver Julio Jones, who leads the NFL with 830 receiving yards this season. A steady pass rush will be the Packers’ best chance of winning on the road, and Matthews would provide a boost to their defensive front.
“It’s really about stopping Julio,” Matthews said, “and everyone they have over there. Which is difficult, but really it just puts a little more pressure on us to get after the quarterback, make him uncomfortable, be a little disruptive so that way we can take the rhythm passing game they have, and take them off the spot a little bit. But easier said than done.”
With a long stretch of games to close the season, the Packers won’t want to risk further injury with Matthews.
In the past two weeks, they have seen running back Eddie Lacy (ankle) and Randall (groin) undergo surgery after playing through injuries. Lacy was placed on injured reserve last week.
Matthews was asked if what happened to Lacy and Randall factors into the decision to play Sunday.
“You just have to be smart, you know,” Matthews said. “To answer your question, no, but you hate to see that because you’ve got warriors who want to battle through injuries and whatnot. In hindsight, we got a game out of them, but lost them for several more. So, no, that doesn’t really.
“I’ve been doing this for several years now, and I know my body better than anyone. So when it’s time to go, it’s time to go. If there’s ever an unfortunate chance that I can’t go, then we’ll make a smart and well-informed decision.”