GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It might be another couple of months before they are on the field together, but Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews were just happy to be standing side by side at the Packers' OTA on Thursday.
Matthews remained sidelined while recovering from last season's thumb injuries and subsequent surgeries, but he is expected to return in time for the start of the regular season. That has not stopped Peppers, the Packers' prized free-agent signing, from imagining the possibilities of playing alongside another Pro Bowl pass-rusher like Matthews.
"I haven't really played with a guy like Clay, really my whole career," Peppers said in his first session with reporters since he signed a three-year, $26 million deal with the Packers on March 15, shortly after he was released by the Chicago Bears.
"Early in my career I played with a guy, Mike Rucker, who was a threat on the other side. But like a really dominant player on the outside, I really haven't had that ever. I'm excited to get out there with him and see what he can do."
And vice versa.
"It will be good playing on the same side as him and having him garner some attention as well as myself," Matthews said. "It's going to present some difficulties for the offense to not only block the two of us but other guys who have stepped up in recent history -- Mike Daniels, Mike Neal coming on strong."
Together, Peppers and Matthews have combined for 12 Pro Bowls and four All-Pro honors. Since Peppers came into the NFC North with the Bears in 2010, only one player in the division has more sacks than him or Matthews. Jared Allen, the former Minnesota Vikings defensive end who signed with the Bears, has 56.5 sacks since 2010. Matthews has 40 and Peppers 37.5.
Count Matthews among those who were surprised that Packers general manager Ted Thompson made the bold moving of signing the 34-year-old Peppers.
"I know we don't make too many offseason acquisitions especially, you know, such a big name," Matthews said. "But obviously like I said I'm happy to have him on this side of the ball. I know he's a tremendous threat."
With the Packers, Peppers is working with the outside linebackers after playing predominantly defensive end for the Carolina Panthers and Bears. However, defensive coordinator Dom Capers has plenty of defensive changes in the works in terms of both scheme and personnel, so the full extent of how Peppers and Matthews will be used together remains to be seen.
"He looks very natural at the outside linebacker position," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.
Matthews, who twice broke his thumb last season and needed a pair of surgeries, said he remains on schedule to be ready for the start of the season.
"You know obviously I'd love to be out there with some of the scheme we're putting in, the new players," Matthews said. "Just getting my feet wet again, especially missing a few games last year with the injury, but I think it just provides enough time to heal properly and get the extra attention that I'll need in healing, so I'm excited about that and once the season rolls around can put it behind me, get back to being 100 percent."