Matthews ruled out against Titans

Michael Cohen
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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GREEN BAY — The Green Bay Packers will be without their best pass rusher for the third consecutive week.

Outside linebacker Clay Matthews, who has endured a nagging hamstring injury since Week 2, has been ruled out for Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans, coach Mike McCarthy said Friday.

"We’re going to list Clay as out this week," McCarthy said. "I had a chance to talk with Clay yesterday. Making progress, just won’t be available this week."

McCarthy said he does not have long-term concerns about Matthews' availability, though it will be the fourth game he's missed this season.

The original injury took place late in the Packers' loss to the Minnesota Vikings in mid-September. Matthews swooped in from the edge to attempt a sliding tackle during the fourth quarter and jogged off the field immediately after climbing to his feet. He did not play the following week against the Detroit Lions.

With the early bye week aiding his recovery, Matthews returned to the field for the next three games. He remained healthy through a win over the New York Giants and loss to the Dallas Cowboys, but the injury resurfaced in Week 7 against the Chicago Bears. Matthews departed early with what he described as "tightness" in the hamstring.

"I think the defense misses Clay Matthews," associate head coach/linebackers Winston Moss said Thursday. "I think that Clay is a playmaker, Clay is a disrupting in the run and the pass and we’re looking forward to when he gets back. He’s just another part of the puzzle that helps this defense wins and play very well."

Overall, the Packers have 21 sacks this season and rank tied for ninth in that category. But the breakdown with and without Matthews is telling: The Packers have 14 sacks in the five games Matthews has played for an average of 2.8 sacks per game. They have managed only seven sacks in three games without him for an average of 2.3 sacks per game.

What's more, outside linebacker Julius Peppers has just one sack in games Matthews has missed. He has 2.5 sacks in games Matthews plays. Peppers will pair with Nick Perry as the two starting edge rushers against the Titans.

"Even when Clay has been available to play," Moss said, "we’ve used him in so many different ways and he’s been on the field, off the field to where at the end of the day we still feel very confident that we can generate a very effective pass rush if he’s either available and is on the sideline or if he’s not available."

Cornerback Damarious Randall (groin) also was ruled out on Friday's injury report despite practicing for the first time this week. He was in good spirits in the locker room and may return ahead of his original timetable of early December.

Defensive back Micah Hyde (shoulder) was listed as questionable. Hyde injured the shoulder last week against the Colts. If he is unable to play, the Packers will need another corner to play both nickel and dime defense.

Without Randall, the Packers will start Quinten Rollins and LaDarius Gunter at corner.

The positive news for the Packers is on the offensive side of the ball, where wide receiver Randall Cobb is back to full health. McCarthy said Cobb, whose hamstring injury limited him against the Colts last week, will receive his normal amount of reps Sunday afternoon.

"He’s going to play as a full-time player," McCarthy said.

As for running back James Starks (knee) and tight end Jared Cook (ankle), their availability likely will be decided after Saturday's practice. McCarthy was encouraged with their participation in Thursday's padded practice. Cook was listed Friday as doubtful; Starks is questionable. Center JC Tretter (knee) was ruled out.

"Looked good," McCarthy said. "I know James, I saw him briefly this morning, he feels good. So we’ll see what the day brings us. They’re definitely making progress. James is very close, and we’ll see how Jared is come Saturday."

New face: The Packers signed tight end Beau Sandland to the practice squad and released running back Brandon Burks.

Sandland, 6-foot-4 1/2 and 252 pounds, was drafted in the seventh round by the Carolina Panthers but did not make the 53-man roster. He spent the first nine weeks of the season on the Panthers’ practice squad and was released Nov. 9.

Sandland finished his college career at Montana State and also played one year at Miami. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.73 seconds.

Kicking yourself: Wide receiver/running back Ty Montgomery was fined $9,115 for his roughing the kicker penalty against the Colts.

The penalty took place on a punt by Pat McAfee, when Montgomery rushed from the middle of the formation. Montgomery dived to block the punt and collided with McAfee’s legs.

Though a flag was thrown, the penalty ultimately was offset by a holding penalty on the Colts.

Titans healthy: The Titans nearly have a clean bill of health entering Sunday’s game.

Linebacker Aaron Wallace (shoulder) is questionable, and everyone else is available to play. That includes rookie running back Derrick Henry (calf), who did not practice until Friday and was not expected to play this weekend.

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