I remember exactly where I was when it happened.
It had been a long, busy work day so far. My stomach started to growl, reminding me that I hadn’t had lunch. I peered out of the window; it was pouring rain. My phone lightly buzzed in my pocket. It was a news update … one I had been waiting for all day. It hit me like a ton of bricks at 4:48 p.m. on that Oct. 7, 2013.
Clay Matthews is likely to miss a month with a broken thumb.
How could this be possible? Aren’t athletes limited to one injury a season?
If you had to flip your calendar back to the last time the Claymaker stood on the sidelines, you are in no immediate danger of a paper cut.
It was two weeks ago.
Since injuring his hamstring midway through the 2012 season, his injury report has been a roller coaster. The Packers missed him sorely last year, during his four-game health hiatus. A month without Clay is like a month without Internet. You think something else could fill the void it leaves behind, but you always get a little bit twitchy near the end.
This offseason, Matthews was handed a big-time contract extension worth $66 million over five years. I want to be able to see him terrorizing opposing quarterbacks every single game of that five years. That dream will never become a reality if hamstrings and thumbs continue to exist.
The Packers hit the draft boards hard and early in April, looking for a big, physical complement to Matthews on the edge. Datone Jones can be that force, but has had injury woes since training camp. Former first round pick Nick Perry can be that force, but hasn’t been playing up to his potential after finishing his rookie season on injured reserve with a wrist injury. Hybrid linebacker Mike Neal can be that force, but is still struggling to find his identity on this Packers defense.
We just needed one person to step up. Well, now we need two … and we need them now.
Can the Packers pose a true threat to the next four opposing quarterbacks without Clay Matthews? I sure hope so, considering one is a defending Super Bowl Champion, the next comes from a surging Cleveland Browns and the following two belong to the rival NFC North. The Packers need to heat it up defensively, with or without Matthews.
This is going to be a frustrating five years if the injury bug continues to bite. I can get my hands on heavy-duty bubble wrap, Clay. You’ve got four weeks to kill; let me know when you are ready for a fitting.