Does Clay Matthews need training camp?

July, 31, 2011
7/31/11
11:16
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Here's a trivia question for you: How many preseason games has Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews played in his career?

Put it this way: He's played more seasons (two) than preseason games (one).

[+] EnlargeClay Matthews
Al Bello/Getty ImagesClay Matthews has collected 23.5 sacks in his first two seasons in the league.
With all the hand-wringing going on in recent months about missed offseason practices and shortened training camps, it's worth noting Matthews' alternative path. In each of his two previous training camps, Matthews has suffered a significant hamstring injury. In 2009 it cost him more than two weeks of practice and three preseason games. Last season, he suffered the injury during the second week of camp and didn't return to practice until days before the regular-season opener.

Those absences hardly slowed him on the way to a combined 23.5 sacks over those two seasons. So I had to stifle a laugh Sunday when Matthews went out of his way to note offseason work designed to lessen the possibility of a summer injury.

I asked Matthews: "Did you really need those camps?"

Matthews' response: "What do you think?"

Me: Uh-oh. Don't hit me.

Matthews added: "Obviously I would like to be out there with the team, but fortunately I stood aside and made mental notes and stayed involved in the defense and everything. But hopefully we can stay healthy this year. For the most part, I'll be ready to go."

Matthews said he had slimmed down this offseason, taking advantage of a consistent workout schedule in California and adopting a more disciplined eating program. He wouldn't say if he reported to camp at a lower weight but joked "I just got myself a six-pack."

In all seriousness, Matthews does appear slimmer. He said he put "extra emphasis on running and field work" during the offseason so he could make sure he was able to "handle anything I need as far as running and lifting" this summer.

I can't even bring myself to note that Matthews has made it through the Packers' first two practices of camp considering players aren't wearing pads and there has been no real contact. (Wait, I just did.) Monday evening will feature the Packers' first padded practice of the summer.

Before we sign off, however, here are a few thoughts from Sunday evening's session:

  • The Packers have been cautious with defensive end Mike Neal, the heir apparent at right end who still isn't completely recovered from shoulder surgery. He has been in uniform but hasn't participated in team drills, so obviously I haven't gotten much of a read on him. Packers coach Mike McCarthy has been singing the praises of C.J. Wilson, who has been working with the first team, but Wilson suffered a bruised calf during a special teams period Sunday night.
  • If a rookie has stood out in the past day, it's tight end D.J. Williams. He has connected with quarterback Aaron Rodgers on a number of downfield passes and made a one-handed catch near the sideline Sunday night that caught my eye. The Packers are limiting Jermichael Finley (knee) and holding out Andrew Quarless (hip flexor), so Williams has a significant opportunity to make an early splash. You wonder if he has a chance to unseat Quarless on the depth chart.
  • Finley did some work in 7-on-7 drills and McCarthy said he could join full-team drills by Wednesday. There has been no setback in Finley's recovery from a knee injury, but the Packers are giving him as much time as they can to ease him back into football activities.
  • Rookies Randall Cobb and Alex Green have gotten significant work at kickoff returner. It's hard not to get excited about Cobb's speed and the aggressiveness he hits the hole with, even if he's just in shorts and a helmet.
  • Rookie Derek Sherrod said he has never played guard in his life and didn't know he would be moved to left guard until he reported to training camp. Still, he doesn't look out of place and McCarthy noted that his addition has given the Packers the biggest offensive line they've had in some time.

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