GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Clay Matthews' tolerance for pain and being able to play through discomfort were put to the test for several weeks last season.
The Green Bay Packers' linebacker said this week that he suffered a stress fracture in his left leg midway through the season.
"It hurt," Matthews said Wednesday. "I don't know what you'd relate it to, but it hurt pretty good."
Matthews needed time off from practice to recover, but the injury didn't stop him from playing each week. He said the leg was fine by the end of the regular season and didn't hold him back from helping the Packers get hot in the playoffs to win the Super Bowl.
"I wouldn't have put myself out there on the field if I was going to hurt this team," said Matthews, who finished with a team-high 17 sacks, including the playoffs.
After taking a month off following the win over Pittsburgh, Matthews trained hard at home in an offseason dominated by the NFL lockout and says he is pain-free for the start of this season.
Matthews has missed only one practice -- the storm-shortened Family Night workout at Lambeau Field last weekend -- in the first two weeks of camp.
Matthews also expects to play in the Packers' preseason opener Saturday at Cleveland, though he hadn't received word from the coaches as of Wednesday about his status for the game. Matthews suited up for only one preseason game his first two years as a pro because of recurring hamstring injuries.
"I joke with him this is actually his first camp fully participating," nose tackle B.J. Raji said. "So, I was impressed with that, just how he was able to come out of the gate flying."
Of course, Matthews did the same thing last year after missing most of camp with an injured hamstring. He had three sacks in each of the first two games, the only Packer to do that in back-to-back outings.
So whether Matthews needs the live reps in preseason play is an argument he said cuts both ways.
"Obviously, I've been able to do it last year, for instance, coming off missing all four preseason games and showing up on the first game being ready to roll," Matthews said. "But at the same time, you want to be out there to really sharpen your skill knowing that you're out there and you're ready to roll."
The Packers open the regular season Sept. 8 against New Orleans, but Matthews feels strong enough physically and mentally to start playing the games that count now.
"I think I'm ready to go as far as it may take others four or five weeks to get ready for the season, I feel like I can do it off maybe a week or two of work," Matthews said.
He reported lighter for camp in late July after going full throttle six days a week for about four months with his personal trainer in Southern California. The cardiovascular workouts enhanced Matthews' conditioning and endurance.
"It was good as far as the running schedule I was on, when I wanted to peak going into camp and taking some time off here and there," Matthews said. "It was really strategically mapped out, so I think that's what's really helped me out so far."
And the broken leg that few knew about last year hasn't been an issue. It was kept under wraps the second half of the season, when the Packers listed Matthews as having a shin injury on the weekly injury report.
"I knew because me and Clay talk about things, but most of the guys probably didn't know," Raji said. "Clay's a tough guy. He's not always nagging and complaining about stuff."
Matthews, the runner-up to Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu for The Associated Press' Defensive Player of the Year honor, defended the team's tack in not revealing the severity of the injury.
"For the simple fact of why let your weaknesses out there?" Matthews said. "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."