Clay Matthews to continue in dual linebacker role for Packers' defense

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Clay Matthews sure looked like an inside linebacker on Thursday. And unlike last November, when that was added to his job description, he sounded OK with being one, too.

The Green Bay Packers' Pro Bowl linebacker spent the entire organized team activities at inside linebacker. He was paired with Sam Barrington in both the base 3-4 and in at least one sub package. Even on a day when three other top inside linebackers -- Julius Peppers (illness), Mike Neal and Nick Perry -- did not practice, Matthews did not take a single rep at his old position.

And he said he was fine with it.

That's a change from last November, when even if he didn't come right out and say it, he was clearly reluctant to move from outside linebacker when Packers coach Mike McCarthy hatched the idea at the bye week.

"I think anytime somebody asks you to make a position change, you're going to be very reluctant about it, especially when you've had success for several years at that position," Matthews said after Thursday's OTAs. "But you've got to get your feet wet and on Sunday night football [on Nov. 9 against the Chicago Bears], I got 'em wet. Moving forward, I kind of built off the success that our defense had as well as myself and we really had a good thing going all the way through the playoffs."

Not only did Matthews line up on the inside during 11-on-11 work, he also spent all of the individual position drills with the inside backers.

However, that does not mean Matthews is a full-time inside linebacker. Even after the switch last season, he lined up as an edge rusher in obvious passing situations when defensive coordinator Dom Capers used his nickel and dime packages. That is expected to continue.

"Obviously, this spring we're putting a little more emphasis on me understanding the inside position, as you saw from the position drills and everything," Matthews said. "I know the outside. I still will continue to work with them. As you'll see, we'll be alternating inside and outside as far as rushing to stacking the box. But mentally I'm ready. Like I said, they're going to rush me from all over the field, they're going to drop me from all over the field and I expect to do a multitude of things this year."

The Packers felt comfortable enough with Matthews in the dual role that they waited until the fourth round to take an inside linebacker, Michigan's Jake Ryan, in this year's draft even though that spot appeared, at least to most outsiders, to be their biggest need.

Matthews had 8.5 of his 11 sacks last season after the bye-week switch, and he made the Pro Bowl for the fifth time in his six NFL seasons.

"He's a great pass-rusher, and he's going to continue to play as many different positions as we could possibly get out of him," McCarthy said. "We need to utilize Clay as much as we can. He's a great player, and we need to give him as many opportunities as we can to make plays."