The Green Bay Packers almost certainly will be without two of their most important defenders during Friday night’s home preseason game against Arizona.
While coach Mike McCarthy didn’t rule them out, all indications are star outside linebacker Clay Matthews and promising defensive end Mike Neal will be held out of action.
Matthews didn’t participate in Thursday’s short jog-through workout because of tight hamstrings. Neal went down with a sprained knee during a drill on Wednesday. He wasn’t even on the practice field on Thursday.
McCarthy, correcting himself from Wednesday, said Neal in fact had an MRI done but would not say what the results showed. It must not be too bad; McCarthy called him “day-to-day” and didn’t rule him out for Friday, though it’s hard to imagine they’d risk a player they’re counting on to pick up much of the slack left by free-agent defection Cullen Jenkins.
“I know he has some stiffness and soreness there now but, believe me, compared to the alternative, you say, ‘Hey, that’s fine,’” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said.
As for Matthews, his absence is anything but unusual. He’s had hamstring issues in all three of his training camps.
“You try to be smart. You remember last year, the Family Night scrimmage, we didn’t see Clay again until the Eagles game,” Capers said. “Fortunately, he got off to a tremendous start because he was fresh. We’ve got to be smart with Clay. We know what Clay can do. It would be foolish to put him in there if it’s tight. One thing about Clay, he practices hard and he knows (when he’s not healthy). Those kind of guys, you want to make sure you don’t take any chances. If his hamstrings are tight and he’s a little tired, you don’t want him to go out and pull something. I feel fine about him. He’s having a good camp.”
More injury updates
McCarthy listed safety Brandon Underwood (knee), safety Anthony Levine (concussion), guard Adrian Battles (Achilles), tackle Chris Campbell (knee) and defensive end Lawrence Guy (concussion) as out for Friday’s game.
New injury: OLB Clay Matthews (hamstring).
Still out: WR Shaky Smithson (shoulder), WR Brett Swain (hamstring), S Brandon Underwood (knee), CB Davon House (hamstring), S Anthony Levine (concussion), TE Spencer Havner (hamstring); RB James Starks (ankle), G Adrian Battles (Achilles), T Chris Campbell (knee).
McCarthy said Starks is “day-to-day; he’s getting better.”
— T.J. Lang will start at left guard rather than Derek Sherrod. McCarthy said it’s Lang’s turn, since Sherrod got the call against Cleveland. “It’s definitely going to be a huge step for me, no doubt,” Lang said. “My goal now is just keep improving on what I’m doing. I think I’ve done some good things. I’m definitely excited about getting out there tomorrow. It’s going to be a huge step for me. If I can go in there and play the way I’ve been playing, only good things will happen.”
— Tight end Jermichael Finley will play in his first game since sustaining a season-ending knee injury at Washington on Oct. 10. Finley said he’s “jacked up” to play but, oddly, said he hopes to play in one series, “max.”
— McCarthy cited the depth at inside linebacker as the reason why he hasn’t moved any of his outside linebackers or tight end Spencer Havner to build some experienced depth on the inside. “We want to make sure we get a good look at the inside linebackers,” McCarthy said. The No. 2 inside linebackers are second-year player Robert Francois and sixth-round pick D.J. Smith.
— After practice, the players broke into position groups and used enormous sling shots to fire T-shirts to the fans. “We really haven’t had a chance to do a group dynamics, team-building type of event. That’s about as much time as we’ve had,” McCarthy said with a laugh. “It’s clearly the best environment I’ve ever had for training camp. They’re there every day. Our fans are the best.”
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.