GREEN BAY – Clay Matthews is certain that he’ll be ready for training camp when it opens in late July, but the Green Bay Packers four-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker says he’ll ease his way back into action after twice breaking his right thumb last season, resulting in a pair of surgeries.
In an interview with USA Today’s Tom Pelissero, Matthews said his second surgery, which occurred on Dec. 24, was complicated because the re-injury of the thumb – initially broken on Oct. 6 against Detroit and re-broken on Dec. 22 against Pittsburgh – was unusual.
“It wasn't like a typical break. We had to treat it more like a soft tissue injury — like an ACL or something — because it required manipulating the tendon and drilling holes in bones and this and that,” said Matthews, adding that he underwent rigorous physical therapy three times a week following that second surgery. “I asked my team doctor, 'When's the last time you've seen this injury in the NFL?' (He) couldn't name one.
“That's why when you deal with (people saying), 'Brett Favre played with a broken thumb.' My thumb was out here! There's no way he could even grip a ball! I have a good picture I can show anyone of my hand after surgery. It honestly looks like I got a shark attack.”
Matthews told Pelissero that underwent a “closed-pin reduction” after the thumb was fractured and dislocated the first time, then had a “tendon transfer” surgery the second time. Matthews said the second surgery was to make the thumb “tighter.”
“We took part of the tendon, turned it around, drilled some holes and they almost tied a knot through. It's stronger than (the left one). Now it's super tight,” Matthews said. “It's just very stiff. I'm only two months out, but I've been working out. It's definitely made a lot of progress. I don't know what the percentages are, but I think I'm at about 75, 80% of where it needs to be.
“By the time the season rolls around, it'll be fine. I'm optimistic about it. I mean, I've never heard of a career-ending thumb injury, but no one had heard of a Bennett's fracture when I had done that.”
Asked if the team’s medical staff had warned him not to come back from the initial break, Matthews said no. And while the physical pain of the reinjury was bad, that was only half of it for Matthews.
“Emotionally more than anything, just knowing that the season was over for me,” he said. “I'd have to have surgery again, which was very difficult in my dominant hand — showering, eating food, dressing, even traveling with the team, taking your clothes off, buttoning up your pants. It was just a pain. But it's getting better. I can work out and do everything I can with very little limitation.”
Asked what he expects his timeline to be for full medical clearance, Matthews said he doesn’t expect to do much at the upcoming organized team activity practices next month.
“I can't imagine I'll be too heavily involved with some of the stuff,” Matthews said. “I'm sure I can do stuff here and there. But yeah, we risked it once, and unfortunately, it didn't pay off.”
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