Matthews said on Thursday, when he was a full participant in practice for the first time since his latest hamstring injury, that he took himself out of the Week 3 game against the Cincinnati Bengals when he felt something was wrong in the second quarter.
“I just told them where I was at and how I felt and moving forward what the smart thing would be,” said Matthews, who was injured in the second quarter when he forced his second fumble of the game.
He did not finish the game and might not have been able to play last Sunday had the Packers not been on their bye week, but on Thursday he proclaimed himself ready to go for this Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field.
His decision to shut it down against the Bengals may have saved him from a longer-term absence.
Matthews has a long history of hamstring problems. He missed parts of training camp in both 2009 and 2010 with a hamstring injury and then missed one game in 2010 and four last season because of the same injury.
While it’s clear it remains a point of frustration for Matthews, he thinks that in his fifth NFL season he is dealing with it better.
“It is unfortunate, first and foremost,” Matthews said. “But I’ve come to, not accept it, but to understand the rehab process. I think a younger Clay thought the world was over, and I was going to be cut the next day, and I’m not living up to the billing. But I’ve just got to get healthy. It’s part of the deal.
“I feel good and hopefully it’s a thing of the past,” Matthews added. “Hopefully it’s my one for the year.”
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said he was “optimistic” about Matthews’ chances of playing against the Lions.
“I knew definitely he was going to do everything he could to play this week,” McCarthy said. “He’s making progress. This is the plan that was set for him, and he’s moving right along.”
Matthews, who had 13.5 sacks last season despite missing four games and signed a five-year, $66 million contract extension in the offseason, leads the Packers with two sacks and eight quarterback hits despite missing more than half of the game against the Bengals.
The Packers might have to limit Matthews' snaps against the Lions, but when he has returned from previous hamstring injuries, he has been productive.
Just ask him.
“I came back after four games last year and how many sacks did I have against Chicago?” Matthews said. “Two, and then I had one, one and then two and then one, no then two, then one. Yeah I remember those things.”
Matthews was right about his sack numbers, and he hopes he’s right about returning this week.
“The first part of getting over a hamstring strain is healing, and obviously I can’t control that,” he said. “But coming back the final hurdle you have to overcome is mentally are you comfortable with exerting 100 percent effort or even more so? I wouldn’t put myself out there if I wasn’t, and obviously that’s this week what we’ve built up to.”