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Clay Matthews 'ready to rock' after softball scare

Experience helped push Bryan Bulaga’s recovery this offseason


GREEN BAY – There's really no time for emotions when a softball comes rocketing off a bat towards your face.

Clay Matthews learned that harsh reality when the Packers linebacker took a line drive off his nose during a charity softball game last month at Fox Cities Stadium.

As bad as it looked, the prognosis was positive. With six weeks to recover from surgery to fix his broken nose, the six-time Pro Bowler was back on the field and an active contributor during the Packers' opening day of training camp on Thursday.

Speaking for the first time publicly about the incident, Matthews was asked whether the ordeal was scary. Reflecting back on it, he's not exactly sure.

"I mean, I didn't have time to process it," Matthews said. "Yeah, I guess in hindsight, it could've been a lot worse. But, fortunately, I'm really tough. So I ate it, walked off the field so as to not create mass hysteria, and proceeded to go through the route of surgery and all that fun stuff."

Matthews said he took a week off after the incident to let the swelling go down. Since rhinoplasties normally can take up to several months to fully heal, Matthews was wearing a visor in practice Thursday and expects to wear one all season.

While Matthews has no limitations with the nose, the Packers still plan to be smart with their 10th-year linebacker this summer after he underwent knee surgery early this year, which limited his participation through much of the offseason program.

"Nose feels good. Knee feels good," Matthews said. "Ready to rock."

Matthews' running mate at outside linebacker, Nick Perry (ankle), and right tackle Bryan Bulaga (knee) were the only two players placed on the physically unable to perform list heading into camp this week, but Head Coach Mike McCarthy said he's expecting both to be ready for the start of the regular season.

Perry had seven sacks through the first nine games last season, but missed four games due to hand, shoulder and ankle injuries. He was placed on injured reserve prior to the Packers' regular-season finale against Detroit.

"I think they're being smart in how they reintroduce him into the game plan," said Matthews of Perry. "I don't want to speak on behalf of his injury, but from talking with him, it sounds like he'll be ready.

"Obviously, the way in which he's played these past several years – especially when he's healthy – he's a premier player. So if we can get him back healthy in time for Week 1, it'd mean a great deal to have another pass rusher who can legitimately be a threat and get after the quarterback."

Speaking to reporters on Thursday after practice, Bulaga said he feels good to go after undergoing surgery to repair the torn ACL he suffered last November against Indianapolis.

A week shy of the nine-month mark in his recovery, the ninth-year right tackle said he respects the decision of team physician Dr. Pat McKenzie, the Packers' training staff and front office to have him start training camp on PUP.

It's the second time Bulaga has been through this process after previously tearing his ACL during camp in 2013. That experience has helped push him in his second recovery from the injury, knowing the aches and pains to expect in the process.

"The first time through you're a little nervous, you think you're going to do something to it," Bulaga said. "The second time through you just kind of block it out and push through it and that speeds up the timeline.

"If you baby it … the timeline gets pushed (back) a little bit because you're not doing what you should be doing in a good time frame. So I feel like this time through, we pushed through some things really early and we started activity early, which helped."

Bulaga split his offseason between Green Bay and doing his rehab at IMG in Florida, the course he took in 2013. Whenever he does get the green light to return, Bulaga has no concern whatsoever about jumping back into the fray.

"Mentally, I'm not worried about the knee, I'm not worried about how it feels," Bulaga said. "It feels great. Just getting physically used to football movements. I think that's the biggest thing."

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