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GREEN BAY - Clay Matthews’ sprained left shoulder might not be fully healed before the season ends, but the Green Bay Packers linebacker believes he’s closer to being effective.

Matthews was held without a tackle for the second time in three weeks Sunday against the Chicago Bears. He has played in only 40 percent of the Packers' defensive snaps in the past three games.

With his left shoulder still hurting, Matthews rushed to the right against the Bears. He said he thought the change helped, even if it didn’t show up on the stat sheet. Matthews said he started using his left shoulder with pass-rush moves in the second half, and it felt better than expected.

“It’s one of those things where the timetable for this is not really set in stone,” Matthews said. “It’s more so about getting strength and the range of motion back. I felt, despite what the numbers would indicate, especially last week, I felt like I started getting some ability to throw back in there and to kind of let it withstand the rigors of battling with some of those offensive linemen. I’m encouraged about that.”

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Matthews plans to see a shoulder specialist after the season, and surgery could be an option. Until that happens, it might be difficult for Matthews to be fully healed.

Sitting a week to let his shoulder rest could have “potentially” accelerated its healing, Matthews allowed, but he doesn’t regret playing. Matthews said his shoulder has had no setback the past three weeks, despite the risk of reinjury.

His shoulder isn’t 100 percent, but Matthews said it has healed to the point where sitting a week for rest wouldn’t make sense.

“The swelling and everything is mitigated,” Matthews said. “We’re at the point where it’s just about fine-tuning it. We’re real close to getting this closer to 100 percent — whatever you want to call it — than it was in weeks prior.”

After playing each game the past two years, Matthews has seen his eighth NFL season mostly derailed with injury. He missed three games with a pulled hamstring he aggravated once, only to sprain the AC joint in his left shoulder a week after returning.

Matthews had three sacks in the Packers' first four games, but only one sack since. He’s on pace to finish with the fewest sacks in his career — even fewer than when he played inside linebacker the past two seasons.

“It’s been a challenging year, that’s for sure,” Matthews said. “Physically, having some of the injuries I’ve had, but mentally more than anything, just having to overcome them week after week has been very difficult, not doubt about it. It is what it is. I’m feeling good now and can only focus on the next game and not the past.”

rwood@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @ByRyanWood

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