ESPN Wisconsin Blogs - Jason Wilde
GREEN BAY – Clay Matthews nodded and smiled. He wasn’t about to be tricked.
Not many players have come into the Green Bay Packers locker room more polished than Matthews when it comes to dealing with the media. Having played at USC and grown up with a dad and an uncle who spent nearly 40 combined seasons playing in the NFL, Matthews knows how to answer – or not answer – reporters’ questions.
So after standing in the Packers locker room Wednesday – the first time he’s spoken with reporters en masse since before the season opener – Matthews replied to query after query after query about his new, malleable role in the Packers’ defense.
To be clear: Matthews came nowhere near questioning defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ decision to reduce the number of passing plays on which he gets after the quarterback – through two games, Matthews has dropped into coverage at a higher rate (27.5 percent) than he did during the previous four seasons. And Matthews sounded like he genuinely thinks the idea of moving him around the defense is a good one – although his reply about being off the line of scrimmage wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of that portion of the plan.
Then, near the end of the Q&A session, it was pointed out to Matthews that he is too smart to publicly say that he is unhappy in his role, if he were indeed unhappy or concerned about it. Cue the smile and nod.
“See now, I’m too smart that I can’t answer that question because what I say will be, ‘Well, he’s thinking this,’” Matthews replied. “I mean, listen, I’m excited that I have the opportunity to go out there, rush the passer, do everything that I can do. At the end of the day, I love making plays, I love getting after the quarterback.
“Dom and the rest of the staff will find ways for me to make plays and I think we’ll continue to see that moving forward whether it’s in coverage, rushing the passer, whatever it may be.”
That answer was a variation on everything he’d said to that point. Not once during the conversation, it should be noted, did he say he was excited about dropping into coverage, whereas he talked about his enjoyment of getting after the quarterback repeatedly.
“I think I can do it all,” Matthews said. “I think over the years, I’ve been known as a sack guy, but I think what’s been lost in the shuffle is the fact that I can cover, I can play in space and rush the passer as well.”
At another point in the conversation, Matthews said: “You see me on the left, you see me on the right, you see me in the middle, you see me covering a 7-route in one-on-one coverage. So yeah, you'll see me doing it all.”
Still, it was hard not to think that the thing Matthews does best – getting after the quarterback, with 50 sacks in his first five NFL seasons – is what he’d like to be doing most. In a comprehensive breakdown of his snaps this season as compared to past years, he’s never dropped into coverage as frequently as he did against the New York Jets on Sunday, when he rushed the passer 22 times and dropped in coverage 12 times, a drop rate of 35.3 percent.
“Ultimately it’s about mismatches, and I think over the years I’ve proven that I can rush against not only against tackles but guards, tight ends, running backs, whatever it is,” Matthews said. “We’re trying to present mismatches because if you do line someone up in the same spot for the same time, they’re just going to figure out a way to slow you down. Ultimately we need to find ways for our playmakers to make plays, and this seems to be working and it seems to be one of them.”
Matthews was later asked the same question he’d been asked at the start of organized team activity practices: If he was worried about the changes hurting his sack numbers. Here were his replies.
May 29:“I doubt I’m going to have to sacrifice statistics because I always feel like I can make my plays. But at the same time, there will be some opportunities to present some mismatches, so it may not be your traditional line-up-here, line-up-there. There might be a little more difficulty for the offense, narrowing in on certain players, especially with the personnel that we brought in, myself included moving around a little bit more and just having fun with it. It seems like we’re going to have a little more fun on defense and be able to make a few more things.”
Wednesday:“Will it affect my numbers? I don't know. We'll see. I was able to come away with one [sack] against Mike [Vick], thank you. But I'm not really worried about that because I think if you're looking at stats, I think if you look throughout the board, we're spreading them out, which I think is just as good. So PBUs, tackles, sacks, hurries, pressures, I think any time you can get the offense off their toes and put them on their heels and make them uncomfortable, that's what we're striving for as a defense.”
GREEN BAY – Micah Hyde was worried on Sunday, limping on Monday and resolute on Wednesday.
The Green Bay Packers second-year safety was concerned that the knee injury he suffered against the New York Jets might be serious – especially given that most of the Packers’ knee injuries this season have turned out to be season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligaments (Jared Abbrederis, Don Barclay, Aaron Adams, Andy Mulumba).
“I think I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was a little nervous just when it first happened. When you hear ‘knee,’ it’s kind of a bad thought,” said Hyde, who was injured while saving a short punt from hitting the ground and turning into a long, field position-changing play. “After I started walking off the field, I knew I just got hit in the wrong spot. Definitely didn’t feel good, though.”
Even as he was moving gingerly the next day, Hyde expressed optimism that the injury, which ended up being a bruised kneecap, wouldn’t keep him out of Sunday’s game at Detroit. And by Wednesday, he was participating in practice, albeit on a limited basis, and certain that he would play against the Lions.
“I’m in for Sunday,” he said, crediting the team’s medical staff for getting him back up and running quickly. “I don’t think I’m the first guy to ever come through with that training staff to get hit in the kneecap. They know what they’re doing with the ice and stim and stuff like that. I’ve just been in there working with them and they’re getting me ready for Sunday.”
There’s another reason why Hyde wants to play, more than just professional pride and wanting to help the team: First-round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has been sharing snaps with him at safety, and Hyde, the starter throughout the offseason and training camp, isn’t ready to cede the job. Against the Jets, he played only 22 defensive snaps compared to Clinton-Dix’s 56 because of the injury.
“It’s all about wanting to play. I want to play,” Hyde said. “There’s a big difference between being injured and being hurt. That’s the way I’ve always been taught. Yeah, it might hurt a little bit right now, but I’m not injured. I can go out on Sunday. It’s going to feel better. It’s improved a lot since Monday, Sunday – so come Sunday I’ll be ready to go.”
GREEN BAY – Mike McCarthy is hopeful that starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga will be back on the field this week.
The Green Bay Packers coach was pleased with what he saw during practice Wednesday from Bulaga, who missed last Sunday’s victory over the New York Jets after suffering damage to the medial collateral ligament in his already surgically repaired left knee.
Asked if he was hopeful that Bulaga could play at Detroit this Sunday, McCarthy replied, “Yes, absolutely.”
Here’s a look at the full, official injury report for Wednesday:
McCarthy said Bulaga took part in the walk-through portion of the practice, when the offense is sequestered inside the Don Hutson Center before emerging and taking part in the full-team porition of practice at Clarke Hinkle Field.
“I don’t know the exact number of reps. I’d have to watch the video to give you a more accurate feel on how he did,” McCarthy said. “But he looked good.”
Hayward, who only played on special teams against the Jets, was passed over by veteran Jarrett Bush to play in the dime unit after Hyde’s knee injury. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers suggested on Monday that Hayward’s historically troublesome hamstring, which caused him to miss all but three games last season, had tightened up on him, but McCarthy said this is a different injury.
“Casey has a glute strain,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy also said Mulumba is done for the year with the knee injury he suffered against the Jets. Mulumba announced on Twitter earlier in the day that he had suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.
GREEN BAY – Has the Green Bay Packers medical staff been overly conservative with injuries in recent years? Coach Mike McCarthy thinks they may have been.
Speaking in response to a question about whether it might be wise to let right tackle Bryan Bulaga sit out Sunday’s game against the New York Jets with a knee injury – even though Bulaga is pressing hard to play with a tear in the medial collateral ligament in his left knee – and let his knee heel, McCarthy suggested that his team might’ve done that too often in recent years.
“I think sometimes we may have done that in the past,” McCarthy said Friday. “I think our medical department tilts that way, but the reality is you’re only given 16 games and I know from a player’s perspective, they want to play in every single game.
“If Bryan Bulaga feels that he can go in this game, that’ll be a part of the decision. But we’re not saving anybody for next week or so forth. If Bryan cannot go, it will be clearly from a medical standpoint that we don’t feel it’s in his best interest.”
McCarthy’s statement about the team’s handling of injuries was ambiguous. When asked a follow-up question about what he’d said, McCarthy didn’t clear much up.
“I just think medically people are a lot more conservative today. I think the landscape is a challenge for every medical group,” McCarthy said. “I think it’s only natural. But at the end of the day, that’s why you have the process. That’s why it’s set up the way it is on who makes those decisions.
“At the end of the day, and I know I’ve said this numerous times in here, from (general manager) Ted Thompson and myself as far as you look at our players, we’re never going to jeopardize a player’s future for one game. But the importance of playing in every game is important.”
GREEN BAY – Bryan Bulaga will have to show coach Mike McCarthy that he’s ready for action during Saturday morning’s practice.
Although the Green Bay Packers veteran right tackle is expected to take part in the team’s final practice in advance of Sunday’s game against the New York Jets, McCarthy wants to see how he gets through that practice after being “sore” on Friday.
Here’s a look at the full, official injury report from Friday:
The Packers no longer practice on Fridays, instead using the day for meetings and walk-throughs before practicing on Saturdays in advance of Sunday games. McCarthy said the soreness Bulaga was feeling Friday was not surprising considering he suffered damage to the medial collateral ligament in his left knee – the same one he had surgically repaired after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament last summer – only eight days ago.
“Working both days, I think this is what’s to be expected,” McCarthy said. “I think he needs to go out and be able to do the move-the-ball segment and show that he can go through and sustain a drive. [That] would be usually what you’re looking for when you have someone coming off that type of injury.”
If Bulaga can’t play. Derek Sherrod would start in his place after allowing two sacks against the Seahawks in the opener. Despite being the team’s 2011 first-round pick, Sunday would be Sherrod’s first NFL start.
“It’d be a big moment for me. Obviously, everybody in the NFL wants to start. To get that first one would be a pretty big event,” Sherrod said Friday. “I played all right [against Seattle], but I always want to play my best and have a mistake-free game. But I did make mistakes, and I have to better myself in the games and the practices in order to make the best lineman out of myself.”
GREEN BAY – His Desmond Bishop moment has arrived.
Jamari Lattimore talked all the time with Bishop as a rookie in 2011, about the way Bishop impatiently waited for an opportunity to crack the Green Bay Packers’ starting lineup on defense. And, when he did – after former first-round pick Nick Barnett broke his wrist early in the 2010 season – he took the job and never looked back.
Now, it’s Lattimore’s turn.
Lattimore will start in place of veteran inside linebacker Brad Jones on Sunday against the New York Jets at Lambeau Field. Jones has been ruled out for the game with a quadriceps injury after playing poorly in the team’s season-opening loss at Seattle.
And Packers coach Mike McCarthy, for one, is challenging Lattimore to never give the job up.
“I would think anytime you get a chance to go and perform, if you perform at a high level, you don't want to give that spot back,” McCarthy said after ruling Jones out Friday. “I think that's the part of injury. You look at the history of the National Football League, some of the greatest careers were started because of an injury in front of that particular player. This is a big opportunity.”
And one that Lattimore is more prepared for than he was last season, when he started four games due to Jones’ various injuries. He played a career-high 272 defensive snaps on defense last season, starting four games for an injured Brad Jones and recording 38 tackles (31 solo), two sacks and a forced fumble.
But he did that while battling a mysterious virus that was making him sick and weak, one that was never officially diagnosed.
“I had no choice,” Lattimore said of the illness. “It's my job. I've got to go and play. But I didn't feel good. But you just have to suck it up.”
Lattimore likened the illness to what former Packers inside linebacker Terrell Manning dealt with during training camp in 2012, when Manning was diagnosed with a parasite that caused colitis, an inflammation of the large intestine.
Lattimore never received a clear diagnosis – “If a person tells you they don’t know what’s wrong with you, how would you take it?” he said Friday – but is at full health now. Having re-signed on a one-year, restricted free-agent tender of $1.431 million this offseason, this is a big opportunity.
“I just come play ball,” Lattimore said. “For me, I just look at every opportunity the same. My number’s being called, so I’ve got to step up and show what I’m about and do the best job I can. Simple as that.”
GREEN BAY – T.J. Lang isn’t a doctor, and the Green Bay Packers veteran right guard won’t be the one making the decision on whether his offensive line next-door neighbor, right tackle Bryan Bulaga, will play Sunday against the New York Jets.
“I think we’re all expecting that Bryan is going to be the guy out there at right tackle,” Lang told reporters after Thursday’s padded practice, in which Bulaga participated on a limited basis. “He said he’s feeling pretty good.”
Bulaga, who suffered a left knee injury during the team’s Sept. 4 season-opening loss to the Seattle Seahawks, missed all of last season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in that same knee. He reportedly suffered damage to the medical collateral ligament this time.
Here’s a look at the full, official injury report from Thursday:
If Bulaga can’t play, or can’t finish the game, Derek Sherrod would fill his spot. But Lang spoke as if Bulaga at least will open the game.
“If something happens where Derek has to come in, I think taking all the [practice] reps this week has been very beneficial for the both of us,” Lang said. “We always talk about chemistry on the offensive line and that’s knowing how your buddy next to you is going to fit on double teams or whatever it is. Everybody has a certain way of communicating with each other. If Derek is out there, I feel 100 percent comfortable and confident.”
Asked about Bulaga, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said that he wasn’t looking for Bulaga to take all the first-team snaps in 11-on-11 “because he’s not ready for that. How he feels [Friday] and if he can go on Saturday (in practice) will be the final test.”
Meanwhile, Bostick was in pads and took part in most of practice. After moving somewhat gingerly on Wednesday, he said he felt ready to go.
“I felt better. Felt a lot better, felt comfortable out there,” said Bostick, who was injured in the Packers’ Aug. 16 preseason game at St. Louis. “But I still think I have a little way to go to get actually up to where I was before I got hurt.
“I guess I’ll see how my leg feels tomorrow. I’m sure it’ll be pretty sore, but I think it’ll be good.”
GREEN BAY – Considering how unlikely it was that Bryan Bulaga would even be on the practice field Wednesday, it probably wouldn’t be wise to bet against the Green Bay Packers right tackle playing against the New York Jets on Sunday.
Nevertheless, six days after damaging the medial collateral ligament in his left knee – the same knee he had surgically repaired a year ago after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in it – Bulaga was back practicing inside the Don Hutson Center Wednesday.
Bulaga did appear to be clearly favoring the knee, which was protected by a large, bulky brace, throughout the time that reporters were permitted to watch practice.
Ever since coach Mike McCarthy said Bulaga had avoided a “major injury” when his knee bent awkwardly during the team’s 36-16 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Bulaga has been privately telling his teammates and coaches that he wanted to give it a go.
“I thought Bryan's workload was really going through individual [periods],” McCarthy said after practice. “He's been chomping at the bit the last couple of days to get out there. So really we'll just see how Bryan feels tomorrow and see how we can progress with him through the padded work."
Although Bulaga hasn’t spoken with reporters since the injury – he went in and out of the Packers locker room quickly during media availability Wednesday – he told teammate and friend Josh Sitton earlier in the week that he indeed wanted to play.
If he’s able to take part in Thursday’s padded practice and do more than individual work, he might have a chance If Bulaga can’t go, McCarthy said last Friday that Derek Sherrod would get the nod at right tackle.
GREEN BAY – Tight end Brandon Bostick is feeling better, and so is running back Eddie Lacy. But neither of the Green Bay Packers offensive skill-position players will know just how ready they are for a return to game action until after they take part in Thursday’s practice in pads.
In Lacy’s case, if he clears the final hurdle of the concussion protocol, he could practice Thursday. Lacy suffered a concussion at Seattle last Thursday. He did not participate in practice Wednesday but whas there as a spectator.
Bostick, who hasn’t played since suffering a lower leg injury against St. Louis in an Aug. 16 preseason game, took part in Wednesday’s practice on a limited basis but said he wouldn’t know if he could play Sunday against the New York Jets until he takes part in another practice.
Here’s a look at the full, official injury report from Wednesday:
“I would say Eddie Lacy is near the end [of the concussion process], just based on talking with Eddie and what the medical staff feels,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after practice. “He's had good workouts. He's progressed very quickly.”
Bostick took part in individual drills, group drills and special teams work but said he only took “a few” snaps on offense.
“:It’s weird being back out there, I haven’t been out there in awhile. It’s good to get back into the flow,” said Bostick, who learned he’d been cleared to practice on Wednesday morning, after running and working out for the medical staff on Tuesday. “I felt fine when I was out there running.”
Asked if he thought he could play Sunday, Bostick replied, “I felt fine. Tomorrow will be the real test, full pads. We’ll just go from there.
“Going full pads, we’ll see how that goes. … I’m just trying to get back out there right now. I don’t know how much I’ll contribute on offense. I’m doing special teams now, just working there.”
Bulaga took part in practice on a limited basis, which was an accomplishment in itself given that he left last Thursday’s game and did not return because of the knee injury. Bulaga reportedly suffered damage to the medial collateral ligament in his left knee, the same knee in which he had a torn anterior cruciate ligament repaired last year.
GREEN BAY – Bart Starr, the Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback and one of the most beloved figures in Green Bay Packers history, is recovering from a mild stroke he suffered last week, Starr’s family and the organization announced Wednesday.
The family said Starr, 80, is expected to make a full recovery but remains hospitalized.
“Last week Bart Starr suffered a mild ischemic stroke, but is very functional and making progress every day,” the family said in a statement released by the team. “He is in the care of his physicians and therapists, and will be released as soon as he regains his strength. Bart’s doctors are confident for a full recovery. We remain grateful for your love and concern.”
Said Packers president/CEO Mark Murphy in a statement: “Everyone in the Packers family extends our best wishes to Bart for a quick recovery. On behalf of all our fans, we hope to see Bart and Cherry at Lambeau Field soon.”
Last month, former Packers quarterback Brett Favre said he hoped to be joined by Starr when he returned to Lambeau Field this fall for a visit.
“Just thinking out loud, wouldn’t it be nice, and I don’t want to speak for [Murphy] or anyone within the organization, but wouldn’t it be nice to flip the coin with Bart Starr prior to the game? I’ve got chills right now thinking about it,” Favre suggested. “I just think that fans, that would be an electric moment. And again, another honor. I’ve always said that about Bart. If we could get that done, it would be an amazing moment.”
Starr forged a friendship with Favre and later befriended Aaron Rodgers, with whom he has become very close. When Rodgers won the prestigious Bart Starr Award for character and leadership last season, he spoke of how much the Starr Award meant to him because of their friendship.
“It means a lot, mostly because I get to stand with my personal role model,” Rodgers, who first met Starr at the Packers’ 2006 Fan Fest event, said of winning the award. “(Starr is know) not only by his play, but more importantly by his work off the field. I think as a football player, you realize you want to be eventually known for more than just playing football.”