A recent conversation between Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews and USA Today’s Tom Pelissero revealed that Matthews is still not 100% healed from a repeat thumb injury suffered late in the 2013 season. ESPN’s Rob Demovsky featured the conversation in a recent article at ESPN.com.
Matthews explained, in more detail, what happened with each injury and how doctors chose to address the second break in December. Here is an excerpt:
“And unfortunately, on a sack of Roethlisberger, the tip of my thumb [hit] my teammate’s helmet. All that pressure went down the cast, broke it again. So then, to make it tighter, we took part of the tendon, turned it around, drilled some holes and they almost tied a knot through. It’s stronger than [the left one]. Now it’s super tight.”
The Packers defense is just not the same without Matthews on the field. Since appearing in at least 15 games in his first three seasons, Matthews has missed 11 games over the past two years, including last season’s wild card playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers. Had the Packers advanced and made a serious push for a Super Bowl appearance, Matthews may have returned and played.
It still bears mentioning that a player who plays with the type of intensity as Matthews does is likely to be more vulnerable to injury. Although Matthews says he will be ready by training camp, everyone heals differently. The thumb can be a tricky injury with all of the bones and tendons connected to both the hand, wrist and arm.
Matthews should be able to make a return but even if he does and based on averages, he will likely miss some time this upcoming season for whatever reason. The Packers need to prepare accordingly at the outside linebacker position. With a healthy Matthews and Nick Perry, the possibilities are many and scary for opposing offenses. But the “healthy” part has not come easy in the two seasons that tandem has existed. They have appeared together in just 14 games over those two years.
While many are talking about the Packers’ need at safety, inside linebacker, tight end and wide receiver, outside linebacker can easily be added to that list as well. Behind Matthews and Perry on the current roster are Andy Mulumba, Mike Neal and Nate Palmer. Neal was adequate as a fill-in while Matthews and Perry were hurt last season, but still wasn’t very productive by himself Neal sprinkled five sacks throughout the season, with no more than one in any single game. Mulumba and Palmer produced very modest results.
I wouldn’t expect Green Bay to take an outside linebacker too early in next month’s draft, but with general manager Ted Thompson, anything is possible. I would expect at least one of their selections (the Packers currently hold nine draft slots) to be a pass-rusher who is expected to play the outside linebacker position. With rookies, however, it’s nearly impossible to determine how much the team can get from them right away. Going this route would provide depth, but still may not solve the issue of what the Packers have behind Matthews and Perry, both of whom were first-round picks.
As said, the ideal situation would be for Matthews and Perry to stay healthy all season and maximize their potential but the odds say that is not likely over the course of 16 games. Matthews recovery from his thumb injury is crucial to the Packers defensive plans and success this season and will bear more watching as time moves along.
Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on AllGreenBayPackers.comFollow Jason Perone: