this Sept. 8, 2013, file photo, Green Bay Packers linebacker
Clay Matthews (52) gestures during an NFL football game
against the San Francisco 49ers in San Francisco. The
Packers' bye week did wonders for Matthews and his sore
GREEN BAY —
It's easy to spot Clay Matthews at Packers practice, with his long
blond hair protruding from his helmet and on to his neck and
When the veterans
are getting a break, the pass-rushing outside linebacker can often
be found taking a breather next to A.J. Hawk, the durable inside
After some doubt,
they'll be together again this weekend to face the Detroit Lions.
The Packers' bye week did wonders for Matthews and his sore
"Well I mean
we obviously had the bye week, which helped out as far as"
getting healthy, Matthews said Thursday. "It was a fortuitous
bye week, I'll say that."
The TV commercial
star and the eight-year veteran. The energized Matthews, in his
fifth season, and the well-spoken, blue-collar Hawk. Mainstays of
the Packers starting linebacking corps since 2009.
So many games
against NFC North foes like the Lions, it must make playing them
seem like second nature.
Wrong, said Hawk.
Especially with Reggie Bush in the mix now in Detroit to join
receiver Calvin Johnson to give opposing defenses headaches.
truth is, I've been part of a lot of games like that. You go in
with all these things that you think are 100 percent, and they can
change in division games," Hawk said. "I need these days
leading up to every game. I need every rep I can get because we're
working on so many different looks and so many different
Sounds like sage
comments a grizzled veteran would say. Hawk agreed to a pay cut in
the offseason, not worried about outside perception of the deal.
Hawk has also taken heat from fans about perhaps being a step
slow, or not making enough big plays.
But he does make
tackles — 28 this year, second behind Brad Jones, and a
team-high 145 last season. He's also durable, having played in 123
of a possible 125 games while in Green Bay.
It's all in the
preparation, Hawk said, at least until Sunday.
little tips in the back of my head that I've written down all
week," he said. "But I know once I'm out there, we just
need to run around and make plays."
Which is exactly
what Matthews is known for, becoming one of the league's most
popular defensive players. His No. 52 jerseys might be outnumbered
in the Lambeau Field stands only by the No. 12 jerseys for Aaron
Rodgers among current players.
When he's on the
field, Matthews fires up the crowd and his teammates. When he's on
the sideline with a hamstring injury, like when he was knocked out
of the Bengals game two weeks ago, it gives the green-and-gold
fans a scare.
four games last season with a hamstring problem. He quickly
reminded reporters Thursday that when he returned, Dec. 16 at
Chicago, he had two sacks.
part of getting over a hamstring strain is healing, and obviously
I can't control that," Matthews 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."
In his fifth
season in the league, Matthews still possesses the wide-eyed
eagerness of a rookie. But that experience is building up in his
brain, beneath those trademark locks, especially when it comes to
dealing with his hamstring.
playing well with two forced fumbles and a sack against Cincinnati
before departing. It was a joint decision with medical staff and
"I just told
them where I was at and how I felt and moving forward what the
smart thing would be," Matthews said. "At that point in
the game, with that lead, too, I felt like it was the wise
The Packers went
on to cough up their 16-point lead.
But it's a long
season. After the early bye, the Packers will have to play 13
I've become a lot smarter. Obviously a younger player would have
kind have pressed the issue, maybe hurt himself even more
so," Matthews said. "But I think we're smart with the
events that took place in Cincinnati and where we're at now, so
fortunately there will be no time missed."