GREEN BAY, Wis. - While his teammates are getting ready for their Monday Night Football showdown with Chicago, Clay Matthews will be at the doctor's office.
The Green Bay Packers' standout linebacker hasn't played since breaking his right thumb against Detroit on Oct. 6, but when he gets the pins removed from the thumb on Monday - a fact he confirmed Wednesday - he will be one step closer to returning to the field. He won't play against the Bears, but if he can return Nov. 10 against Philadelphia, he will have missed only four games.
The Packers take a four-game winning streak into Monday night's game at Lambeau Field, with three of those victories coming with their star defensive player sidelined.
"I've been very impressed with our team. It's not just about me," Matthews said. "There's a bunch of other guys on this team and they've been doing a fantastic job, specifically speaking on defence, getting pressure on the quarterback. It's good to see."
Despite playing without Matthews, the Packers are tied for 10th in the NFL with 23 sacks entering this week's games. Matthews, who has 45.5 career regular-season sacks in four-plus seasons, had three sacks at the time of his injury, which occurred as he was sacking Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Not only have the Packers played without Matthews, but fellow starting outside linebacker Nick Perry has missed the last two games with a foot injury, and starting inside linebacker Brad Jones has been out since suffering a hamstring injury the same day Matthews broke his thumb.
"I look forward to the time when we get all of our troops together at the same time," defensive co-ordinator Dom Capers said. "I think what we're going through now is these guys are gaining experience. We'll be able to use that experience over the second half of the season."
As well as the Packers defence has played without Matthews - in the three games he's missed, the unit has registered 11 sacks and 61 total points - Matthews said he's not going to be extra careful with the injury and wait any longer than the doctors make him wait.
"I'm not a patient guy, as you guys are well aware," Matthews said. "I'll never learn to be patient. It's difficult because with most rehab injuries you feel as if you're getting better and working toward something, but with this it's obviously a different case. I kind of have to wait for doctors' opinions and specific procedures in order to take the field. That's what is the most frustrating."
Matthews said he had hoped to play through the injury wearing a club cast to protect the hand. But because of the type of injury he sustained, he had no choice but to have surgery.
Matthews suffered a Bennett fracture, in which the first metacarpal bone at the base of the thumb breaks away from the joint, leaving behind a fragment that remains attached to one of the ligaments in the thumb joint.
If not surgically repaired, the injury can lead to permanent problems, such as reduced grip strength in the hand.
"I was all for it (playing), but there was no way around it with (what) these doctors were telling me the possible risks were as well as future life after football as far as my hand and what could happen," Matthews said. "I definitely would like to push through it. I feel like I could and I'd be able to. Pain is not an issue for me. It's more so about being smart - and at times I'm not the smartest."
Matthews said he didn't really feel much pain when it happened and wasn't even sure how the injury occurred.
"When you break a bone in your hand, especially with the adrenaline running, you don't really feel it until afterward when the pain kicks in," Matthews said.