Matthews has sore knee, 'no idea' when he'll return

Ryan Wood
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Clay Matthews was held out of practice with "knee soreness" Monday, and though the Green Bay Packers linebacker said his absence was precautionary, he has "no idea" when he might return.

Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews stretches during training camp practice at Ray Nitschke Field on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015.

"Just taking the car into the pit shop," Matthews said. "Getting the wheels changed. Getting ready for the season."

On the surface, Matthews' absence from the Packers' second training camp practice in pads was alarming.

The five-time Pro Bowler has dealt with several injuries in his six-year career. His ailments include recurring hamstring issues, surgery on his right thumb, a strained groin and a biceps injury.

Matthews said his knee doesn't pose a long-term risk to his health.

"Honestly, I'm going to be fine," he said. 'You'll be like, 'Oh, Clay just gave us a heart attack.'"

Coach Mike McCarthy said Matthews' knee became sore "sometime Saturday," though he didn't know when it specifically happened. He said Matthews is in the "rehab phase," working his way back onto the practice field.

"We're just being smart with him," McCarthy said.

Matthews has been splitting time at inside and outside linebacker during the offseason. He's mostly played inside in the Packers' base 3-4 defense, and he gets some outside reps in the team's subpackage.

Nate Palmer received the majority of Matthews' first-team reps at inside linebacker in the base defense, rotating with Joe Thomas and rookie Jake Ryan. Palmer said he injured his left hand early in practice Saturday, and he had padding around everything except his thumb Monday.

Palmer, who missed last season with a torn ACL, said the injury happened when he was trying to "square up" running back Rajion Neal in the hole. At first, Palmer said, he thought he dislocated a finger. There was no dislocation, but would not share specific details about the injury.

"It's limiting me just as far as grabbing," Palmer said. "I'm a big special-teams player. I'm on all special teams, so like the blocking aspect of special teams, I have to figure out a way to get that done and getting off the blocks.

"I'm in a trial phase of it. I'll figure out a way to get those things accomplished."

Matthews' absence also opened up first-team reps at outside linebacker, which Andy Mulumba filled in subpackages.

Mulumba also missed last season with an ACL tear. Like Palmer, the injury doesn't appear to be slowing him down in training camp. He has been disruptive as a pass rusher, showing good burst off the edge. Regardless, Mulumba said he's not yet 100 percent.

With time, Mulumba said he's learning to trust his knee again. He's looking forward to returning to full strength. The 10-month recovery period made him appreciate the game even more, he said.

"It ended my season" Mulumba said, "and that was my first big injury, my first surgery, and I didn't know if I would be able to come back, or what it would take to come back. So being able to train for so long outside the team, go somewhere that I could just focus on training and rehab, that's kind of intensified my ability to play football, think about how important this game is to me, being away from the game for so long.

"It just makes you think, like you love this game so much. Whatever you have to do to come back and be better, that's what I did. Hopefully I can get better every day." and follow him on Twitter @byRyanWood

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