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Packers OLB Matthews down but not out

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Dan Arkush

darkush@pfwmedia.com
Executive editor

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Posted Aug. 10, 2010 @ 9:40 a.m. ET
By Dan Arkush

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Clay Matthews immediately tried to lighten the mood as he addressed a crowd of reporters gathered around his locker-room stall after the Packers' Monday-afternoon practice in steamy Green Bay.

"If any of you guys have a magical switch or something, I'm all for it," said Matthews regarding a possible cure of the injury to his left hamstring that has put him out of commission for what is minimally expected to be two weeks.

Last year around this time, Matthews suffered the exact same kind of injury and ended up being a relative nonfactor for the first month of the season before bursting on the scene in a big way in the first of two games against the Vikings on a national Monday-night stage in Week Four.

This year, although he'd love to find a magical cure that could get him back on the field right away, he appears to have a more realistic grip on exactly what it's going to take to get him back to the way he was feeling earlier this offseason, when he said he was in the absolute best shape of his life.

"Rest, ice, heat, and then eventual light workouts should get me back to full strength," Matthews said before mentioning the biggest piece of this year's rehab puzzle — a much more positive state of mind than he had after getting hurt last August.

"I am keeping my emotions in check," Matthews said. "Last year the injury seemed to affect me a lot more because the expectations were so high for me. I think I tried to push it, and it ended up setting me back. But this year, with a greater knowledge of the defense, I don't think I will have much of a setback."

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, whose LB corps was reduced to only six totally healthy bodies in the Monday practice, agrees with Matthews' take on his current situation.

"He's in a better place mentally after spending the whole offseason studying the defense," McCarthy said of Matthews, who, despite not cracking the starting lineup until Week Four in 2009, became the first Packers rookie to earn a Pro Bowl berth since James Lofton 32 years ago. "The same anxiety isn't there, and I'm confident that he'll come back strong."

Matthews believes he suffered his latest left-hamstring injury in the Packers' recent Family Night scrimmage.

"I think it was on a screen play with the fullback," he said. "I might have opened up wrong or maybe decelerated too fast. I'm not sure."

What Matthews said he is sure of, though, is that the injury should not hinder him in terms of the recent move he made from right outside linebacker to left outside linebacker — a move, it should be noted, that is far from permanent and is geared toward making him a more versatile force from either side of the field.

"Not really," Matthews said of the move. "The work is pretty much the same on either side. It just hinders me more from a personal standpoint. I was just starting to play my best football. But like I said before, I feel real good about myself, and being a little more familiar with the defense this year is going to help me.

"If I took anything away from last year, it's that it wasn't the end of the world."

Hardly.

Once Matthews got back on the field last season, he never looked back, as he went on to register a team-leading and franchise rookie-record 10 sacks and set the stage for budding superstardom in the eyes of most league observers.

And there's another big reason Matthews thinks he will bounce back before too long without missing a beat — his intense workout program earlier this offseason in Hollywood that was supervised by Fox football commentator and fellow workout fiend Jay Glazer, who was also representing the national media at the Packers' Monday practice.

"I did lots of work in Hollywood to get stronger and bigger," Matthews said. "It's the hardest work I've ever done, but I got my weight up to 260 and feel like I'm in outstanding shape. I've always had a very strong lower body, and we did a lot of work on my hips.

"There was a lot of wrestling, grappling technique work. It wasn't like I was taught to put people in choke holds, or anything like that, but it really improved my leverage and overall hand speed and helped me to get a better understanding of my body."

It's an understanding that camp observers believe should help Matthews return to action by probably the third preseason game against the Colts, magical potions notwithstanding.

 

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