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Black and Blue all over: Matthews returns in GB

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

It's been a long spring and summer for Green Bay rookie linebacker Clay Matthews, who has been limited off and on for months by a strained hamstring. In the most recent stretch, Matthews missed 13 practices and the Packers' first two preseason games -- leaving him with a tough climb to earn the starting job most observers considered would be his in Week 1 of the regular season.

Matthews, however, returned to practice Wednesday. He won't play in the Packers' preseason game Friday at Arizona but is on track to make his debut in the Sept. 3 preseason finale at Tennessee. (The same is true for linebacker Nick Barnett.)

According to Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Matthews has actually suffered three separate injuries to the hamstring this year. As a result, the Packers' medical staff took his recovery particularly slowly this summer. For now, it appears Brady Poppinga is the likeliest opening-week starter at the position previously reserved for Matthews.

Continuing around the NFC North:
The surge of young Packers tight end Jermichael Finely is pushing veteran Donald Lee to improve as well, writes Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press found no evidence of a "schism" in the Vikings' locker room over the arrival of Brett Favre.Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune on the schism: "Let's make this much clear: There are almost certainly some members of the Vikings who would like to see [Tarvaris] Jackson starting. Jackson might not have proven himself as a reliable starter in his first three seasons but he is well-liked by many of his teammates and from everything I've seen a good guy who often faces criticism head on."Chicago receiver Devin Hester is learning how strong quarterback Jay Cutler's arm is, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times.Cutler is having a hard time getting excited for his return to Denver this Sunday night, writes Jeff Dickerson of ESPN Chicago.Detroit rookie safety Louis Delmas tussled with tailback Aveion Cason during practice Wednesday, notes Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press.Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham wasn't happy with the number of missed tackles Saturday at Cleveland, writes John Niyo of the Detroit News.The Lions signed placekicker Billy Cundiff to fill in for the injured Jason Hanson and Swayze Waters, notes Cotsonika.