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Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews said being able to practice Wednesday was an encouraging sign as he recovers from a groin pull.

Matthews injured his groin in the second half of Green Bay's loss Sunday to the Detroit Lions. The four-time Pro Bowler left the game early in the fourth quarter and didn't return.

Matthews was limited in practice Wednesday. Packers coach Mike McCarthy said he only saw Matthews in individual drills.

"I really don't have a beat on him yet," McCarthy said.

After practice, as he walked from one end of the locker room to the other, Matthews appeared to have a slight limp. He said Thursday's practice will be "another step" in his recovery.

There's no underselling the importance of Matthews' presence on the field when the Packers travel to the Chicago Bears for a noon kickoff Sunday at Soldier Field.

Matthews has eight sacks in nine career games against the Bears, including 5.5 sacks in two games during the 2012 season. A broken thumb forced him to miss both games against Chicago last season.

The Packers are 8-1 when Matthews plays against the Bears, including a 21-14 win in the NFC Championship Game four seasons ago.

"It's huge to see him in front of us," safety Micah Hyde said. "We know he's going to rush the quarterback, get the quarterback off the spot, make him throw the ball a lot quicker. Clay being on the field helps us a lot in so many ways."

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

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