Clay Matthews was limited at Wednesday’s practice, lending to hope the Green Bay Packers will have their best pass rusher and premier all-around defender for Sunday’s key game against Detroit.
“I think Clay is better,” coach Mike McCarthy said after practice. “He's made a lot of progress since coming off the field in Cincinnati. I'm hopeful that he'll be able to do more tomorrow. That's the plan.”
In one half against Cincinnati before the injury, Matthews had one sack and forced two fumbles. He’s got two of the team’s seven sacks, eight of the 21 quarterback hits and two of the three forced fumbles. The other outside linebackers, starter Nick Perry and top backup Mike Neal, have combined for no sacks and two quarterback hits (both by Neal).
“It looks different (without Matthews),” Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said during his conference call. “Any time you’re missing a player of his caliber, it’s going to look different. They drafted well and they have some young guys in there with a lot of talent making plays, too. So any way you look at it, whoever’s out there, it’s going to be a good defense.”
Meanwhile, while safety Morgan Burnett appears ready to make his debut after missing the first three games with an injured hamstring, cornerback Casey Hayward will miss his fourth consecutive game. Hayward missed most of training camp with a hamstring injury, returned to play Seattle in the third preseason game but aggravated the injury in that game. He hasn’t practiced since.
“Everybody's different. Hamstrings are different on every player, every individual, as far as their rate of recovery,” McCarthy said of Hayward. “This is just the course that we're going. I don't have an answer for you. He's not going to be ready this week. And you don't go out and test players every day, so we'll probably know more next Monday or next Tuesday how close we are."
Packers injury report
Out: CB Casey Hayward (hamstring), RB James Starks (knee), G Greg Van Roten (foot). Limited: LB Clay Matthews (hamstring). Full: S Morgan Burnett (hamstring), CB Jarrett Bush (hamstring), TE Jermichael Finley (concussion), RB Johnathan Franklin (foot), FB John Kuhn (hamstring), RB Eddie Lacy (concussion).
Starks will be out a “couple weeks” with an injury sustained at Cincinnati, and Van Roten was injured at Monday’s practice and will be out “multiple” weeks,” McCarthy said.
-- The Packers have won a league-record 22 consecutive home games against Detroit. That was news to rookie left tackle David Bakhtiari, who learned of that streak while listening in on an interview with left guard Josh Sitton a few minutes earlier. That’s because McCarthy saw no reason to tell his players. “I don't acknowledge the streak,” McCarthy said. “Really, I understand how long it's been, but it ain't going to help us Sunday. Last year is last year. The last two decades is the last two decades. I get it, it’s good to write about. It won't show up in our PowerPoints. It won't show up in our team meetings.”
-- Cornerback Sam Shields called this a “must-win” game considering Green Bay is 1-2 and Detroit is 3-1. “I think it’s a much-needed game,” Finley said. “A division game, our first one, and it’d be a game where we’d be a half a game down, so it’s a much-needed game.”
Added quarterback Aaron Rodgers: "We’ve been in this position before. You don’t want to put yourself in this position because it’s a tough battle and we’ve got 13 straight games here which gives it an extra dimension as well to the toughness but we’re going to rely on our veterans to stay healthy, play well and lead, and our young guys to come along and grow up fast and make the plays we expect them to make."
-- With Van Roten out, undrafted rookie Lane Taylor figures to be on the active roster for the first time. “It’ll be real exciting to finally be suited up for the Packers. It’ll be a dream come true.”
-- Shields wouldn’t say if he’ll be matched up on Detroit’s Calvin Johnson. Before the bye, Shields locked up on Cincinnati’s A.J. Green and allowed just four catches, though one of those went for a touchdown. “Oh, yeah, most definitely,” Shields said when asked if he wants the challenge. We’ll have more on this matchup in our World’s Best Preview this weekend.
Agree or disagree?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave Bill a question in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum.
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.