As if his 13.5 sacks during the regular season, 3.5 sacks during the playoffs and Super Bowl momentum-swinging forced fumble weren't enough, he did much of his damage by playing with a stress fracture of his left shin through the second half of the year.
"I had to take a few days off of practice each week in hopes that it would recover," Matthews said on Wednesday. "It's one of those deals where it's going to take some time to strengthen back up and recover. But, at the same time, I was still out there on Sundays, and I was good enough to play. I wouldn't have put myself out there on the field if I was going to hurt this team."
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Matthews' first entry on the injury report came on Nov. 3, which was the Wednesday after the Jets game. In December, he called the injury "nagging" and "more annoying than anything else." He remained on the report through the NFC Championship Game against Chicago, though he said he was starting to "get back to my old self" at the start of the playoffs. The Packers never divulged details on the injury, listing it only as a shin.
Matthews said he kept silent on the extent of the injury so opponents couldn't take advantage.
"I've never been a big guy to talk about my injuries or myself," he said. "It's always been about the team. With something like that, what am I to gain from letting that out? The real picture is, yeah, it affected me personally and potentially in how I played the game. But, at the same time, it's only going to hinder me. I look at it from a standpoint of teams looking at me and trying to get after me. But, I'm all healed up now. So, hopefully, I can stay healthy."
So far, so good, after having his first two training camps derailed by hamstring issues. Matthews is off to a strong camp. On Wednesday night, he torched right tackle Bryan Bulaga with a devastating spin move during the one-on-ones.
Bring him along slowly
Pro Bowl left tackle Chad Clifton has been used sparingly during practices, with first-round pick Derek Sherrod and second-year player Marshall Newhouse getting the bulk of the work. It's all part of keeping the 35-year-old lineman fresh for when it matters.
"He's getting his work in," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. "Whenever Coach McCarthy and Ted (Thompson) and those guys decide that they want to give him more work, he's ready. He's progressing and doing some good things."
"I have no reason to believe it's serious," McCarthy said of Finley's injury — in layman's terms, a bruised butt. "We will do play time for the Cleveland game tomorrow as a staff at noon, and as always, the practice tomorrow night will hopefully not factor in adjusting the play time. If Jermichael is any threat of not playing in Cleveland, I don't have that information yet for you."
Old injuries: K Mason Crosby (ankle), WR Brett Swain (hamstring), S Brandon Underwood (knee), CB Davon House (hamstring), CB Brandian Ross (hamstring), ILB LB Cardia Jackson (unknown), OLB Diyral Briggs (hamstring), OL Adrian Battles (Achilles), T Chris Campbell (knee).
Returned to action: NT Eli Joseph (hamstring and hip flexor).
— Crosby will kick at Thursday's practice, McCarthy said. "He did some kicking inside," McCarthy said. "He feels good. I'd be surprised if he doesn't kick tomorrow night and wakes up Friday with an issue. But, if he does, we'll act accordingly. The plan is for Mason to have a full kicking session in tomorrow night's practice."
— The final playbook installation took place on Wednesday, with Thursday's practice dedicated to getting ready for Saturday's game at Cleveland. Friday's scheduled practice was canceled because of the trip to the White House.
— The Aaron Rodgers-led No. 1 offense and a Graham Harrell-led crew of backups failed to get into the end zone during a two-minute drill. Rodgers almost kept his drive alive but, on fourth-and-14 following a sack by A.J. Hawk, James Jones was unable to hold onto a jump ball against Tramon Williams. Harrell converted a fourth-and-17 to rookie Ryan Taylor but on fourth-and-1 from the 6 with 5 seconds remaining, Harrell got immediate pressure and threw to Taylor, but the ball went one way and Taylor went the other.
— Jordy Nelson is entering the final year of his contract and is one of the prime contenders for an in-season extension. "I'm approaching it the same. Obviously, you know it's there, and in the back of your mind, you want to have the best year you can possibly have because you know what's going to happen in the end. But it's going ot be the same. You can only control what you can control — and for me, that's run a route, get open, catch the ball. What the Packers decide to do, what other teams decide to do when I hit free agency, it is what it is. It's just all about playing football."
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.