GREEN BAY, Wis. -- While Aaron Rodgers is hurt, another star player looks as if he'll soon be returning to the Packers.
Linebacker Clay Matthews is working his way toward a potential return to Lambeau Field for Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The heavy black wrap that virtually encased his right hand in practice offers a big clue as to why he's missed the past four games.
"I think so. You know obviously it's going to be coach's decision, but you know, I'd like to be out there," Matthews said Thursday. "So I'm just trying to get ready to help out in any way which I can."
Getting Matthews back would help offset the loss of Rodgers, who hurt his left collarbone in Monday night's loss to the Bears.
"It's time for other positions to elevate their game and really carry this team ... until he comes back," Matthews said.
The four-time Pro Bowler has 45 1/2 sacks in 62 games, including three in his four appearances this season. His return would be a huge boost for an outside linebacker group ravaged by injuries.
Matthews was limited in practice Thursday, as were three other outside linebackers: Mike Neal (knee), Andy Mulumba (ankle) and Nick Perry (foot). The latter has missed the past three games. The only healthy outside linebacker is rookie Nate Palmer.
First, Matthews has to get used to that "club" on his right hand he wears in practice. From afar, it looks as if he was wearing a large black oven mitt stuffed with foam that's sealed around his wrist.
Matthews is not a big fan of it. "It does not feel good."
"I've just got to get used to playing, you know a little more with one hand and obviously being comfortable with throwing it in there," he said. "So I'm taking baby steps in coming back to practice."
Whether trying to spin past an offensive tackle or levelling an undersized running back trying to throw a block, the hands are important in helping to get leverage.
"Obviously you need to have great hands, and you know when you take one away it definitely hinders your game a little bit," he said. "We'll take it day-by-day, but it's getting better."
Coach Mike McCarthy has been watching Matthews' comfort level. Practice could help determine whether a different kind of custom-fitting wrap is better for Matthews, given the particular pass-rushing techniques he might use.
But a one-armed Matthews might be just as good as any other linebacker. After compiling 11 sacks in the first three games without Matthews, the Packers managed just one in Monday's 27-20 loss to Chicago.
Palmer said just the threat of having Matthews out there could help free up other pass-rushers.
"I hope he's very effective," McCarthy said. "He's a dynamic football (player) and it will be great to get him back on the field."
Playing the Eagles would also be a family affair for Matthews. His younger brother, linebacker Casey Matthews, was a fourth-round draft pick in 2011 out of Oregon.
Notes: McCarthy said the Packers are getting the defence ready for the Eagles' up-tempo attack with a no-huddle system. "I thought our guys did a good job for them today. But it's a challenge," McCarthy said. ... Rodgers was listed on the practice report as having not participated. The team doesn't have to declare whether players will be out until Friday. ... G T.J. Lang (concussion) did not practice for a second straight day, while DT Ryan Pickett (knee) was limited Thursday.