this Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013, photo, Green Bay Packers' Clay
Matthews, right, sacks Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew
Stafford during the third quarter of an NFL football game in
Green Bay, Wis. Matthews broke his right thumb during
Sunday's 22-9 victory over the Detroit Lions on this play at
GREEN BAY —
Mike Neal's comfort level at his new position is being quickly put
to the test by the Packers.
Green Bay drafted
him in 2010 as a defensive lineman. This year, he transitioned to
outside linebacker. Now he'll need to assume even more
responsibility with four-time Pro Bowler Clay Matthews expected to
miss at least a couple weeks with a broken right thumb.
Pressure? Only if
it's in reference to rushing the quarterback. Neal is coming off
what he termed the best game of his career after six tackles and a
sack against Detroit last week.
really," Neal said Wednesday when asked how much Matthews'
absence would change the defense. "We're going to miss Clay.
Clay brings a lot of stuff to the table ... We're not going to be
able to mimic what Clay (does) but we can control what we do, and
as long as we do that, we'll be fine."
Once again, the
Packers will be experiencing life without their best defensive
player. Matthews hurt his thumb while sacking Matthew Stafford on
the last play of the third quarter in the 22-9 win over the Lions.
Matthews' possible return, coach Mike McCarthy said it might be
"multiple weeks ... I think any time you're dealing with the
wrist and thumb area every injury is specific to that particular
injury and his is no different. It's going to take a couple weeks
the only casualty in the linebacking corps. Like Matthews, inside
linebacker Brad Jones will sit out this week's game in Baltimore
against the Ravens with a hamstring injury. McCarthy said he
doesn't think Jones will be out for long, and that he would be
re-evaluated next week.
replacement, Robert Francois, suffered a season-ending Achilles
injury in the Lions game. On Wednesday, backup outside linebacker
Andy Mulumba missed practice with a sore ankle, though McCarthy
said he's hopeful he can go Thursday.
The Packers also
have A.J. Hawk, Jamari Lattimore and Sam Barrington on the inside,
along with Nick Perry and Nate Palmer on the outside.
McCarthy is fine
with the depth at the position.
linebacker position and how we utilize other members of our
defense on special teams and all that, I feel very good about our
plan," McCarthy said.
He must be
comfortable if Green Bay called up cornerback James Nixon from the
practice squad to take Francois' spot on the roster. On Tuesday,
the Packers signed undrafted free agent rookie cornerback Jumal
Rolle to the practice squad. Rolle has also spent time with the
Bills and Saints.
As of now, it
appears as if Neal and Perry will start on the outside against
Baltimore, with the steady veteran Hawk inside and Lattimore
As much as they
don't like playing without Matthews, the Packers do have
experience going without him. Matthews missed four games last
season with a hamstring injury. He was also sidelined for a game
in 2010, and training camp in his rookie year of 2009 with a sore
hamstring — though Matthews did play all 16 games in that rookie
left the 34-30 loss to the Bengals two weeks with a hamstring
injury. He has three sacks and two forced fumbles this year.
whenever he returns, will likely need a cast.
Clay Matthews is our best player on defense. But this is pro
football," McCarthy said. "We've been down this road
before. It's an excellent opportunity for others to step up and
Like Neal and
Perry. Neal started in Perry's place last week opposite Matthews,
but Perry ended up with five tackles and two sacks anyway.
the quarterback, Neal is still picking things up about his new
position, especially with coverage.
moving parts of our defense and being able to see it and identify
it because you can't always do the communication on the
field," Neal said. "That's difficult if you've never
been in that position before to look up and see what type of
offense they're running and what your assignment is when you can't
hear in the crowd."
on top of those things is definitely helping me be
successful," he added.
The Packers hope
that carries over to Sunday.