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Notebook: Pro Bowl Call Comes For Matthews

Outside linebacker Clay Matthews called being selected as an alternate for the Pro Bowl last week an honor in itself, but the recognition became a little more special on Friday afternoon when he found out he had been added to the NFC roster. - More Press Release: Packers LB Matthews Selected To Pro Bowl | Mike McCarthy P.C. Transcript - Jan. 8


Outside linebacker Clay Matthews called being selected as an alternate for the Pro Bowl last week an honor in itself, but the recognition became a little more special on Friday afternoon when he found out he had been added to the NFC roster.

Matthews will take the place of Bears linebacker Lance Briggs on the NFC roster as he becomes the first Packers rookie defensive player to be named to the Pro Bowl since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. He is the first Green Bay rookie to earn the honor since wide receiver James Lofton in 1978. Matthews joins quarterback Aaron Rodgers, cornerback Charles Woodson and safety Nick Collins on the NFC Pro Bowl squad.

"To be able to go and represent the whole Green Bay Packers organization, it just means a great deal to me and I'm really looking forward to it," Matthews said. "It's a great honor, but we've got a game to play this weekend, so I'm just focusing on Arizona.

"None of these awards or accolades could be possible without playing on a great team and playing around other great players and just believing in the system. A lot of praise goes out to the other guys for helping me get to where I am at today."

Matthews played in all 16 games this season with 13 starts at right outside linebacker and led the team with a franchise rookie-record 10 sacks. He posted three two-sack games and set a Packers rookie record with a sack in four straight games (Weeks 12-15). His three fumble recoveries led all NFL rookies.

Matthews was the first player that Packers general manager Ted Thompson traded up into the first round to acquire in the 10 drafts he has run (five each with Seattle and Green Bay). The Packers used the 26th pick in the first round on Matthews, a selection they obtained from New England (along with a fifth-round pick) for Green Bay's second-round choice and two third-round selections.

Matthews made his first start in Week 4 at Minnesota as the team opened up in its nickel package, and made his presence felt with a strip of Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson that he also returned 42 yards for a touchdown. He started again the next game, this time in the Packers' base defense against Detroit, and posted two sacks, the first Green Bay rookie to do so in more than a decade.

"I don't think one game stood out," Matthews said. "I think I have gradually been getting better and better. At this point of the season I feel like I am playing at a level that benefits our team. I am able to generate pressure as a passer, hold the point of attack against the run, and overall be a force on the right side of the line. I just look to continue to develop."

It was quite the day for Matthews as he was also selected on Friday as one of five finalists for the '2009 Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year Award', joining Buffalo safety Jairus Byrd, Houston linebacker Brian Cushing, Minnesota wide receiver/kick returner Percy Harvin and Baltimore tackle Michael Oher.

Fans can vote for the award on through 5 p.m. CST on February 2. The winner will be announced award during a press conference in South Florida, the site of Super Bowl XLIV, on Thursday, February 4.

"It means a great deal to me, especially in this rookie class," Matthews said. "You can't turn on an NFL game without seeing a rookie, both offensively and defensively, taking over a game.

"Guys have just made their presence felt and are being key leaders for their teams as rookies. So to be in the same class as them, it means a great deal. Hopefully we'll have a good time down there. Either way, whoever comes away with the award, we'll be happy for one another. It's a great fraternity."

Seasoned vet

Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner brings plenty of playoff experience with him, and he has also been one of the more successful quarterbacks in the league in the postseason as well.

In 11 postseason games, Warner has an 8-3 record (.727), the third-best winning percentage among active quarterbacks behind only New England's Tom Brady (14-3, .824) and Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger (8-2, .800). He has played in three Super Bowls, the first two with St. Louis and the third last year with the Cardinals.

In Arizona's run to the Super Bowl last season, Warner threw for an NFL playoff record 1,147 yards in four games, breaking his own record of 1,063 yards set in 1999 with the Rams.

"He has a quick release," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "He is extremely accurate and he is very well-versed. I think when he is back there and they have four receivers on the field, he has the ability to change plays and he has the ability to change routes off the look. He has a very good feel for where the pressure might come from when you are spread out like that.

"They put a lot on him in terms of getting the ball out of his hand. Many times you'll see the free defender come and he is accountable for him. He is responsible for getting the ball out before the guy can get to him."

According to STATS, Warner ranked sixth in the NFL this season against the blitz, completing 95-of-150 passes (63.3 percent) for 1,159 yards, 11 touchdowns and four interceptions for a 100.4 passer rating.

Warner also was a large part of the Cardinals' success in the red zone this season, as Arizona finished first in the league with a 70.4 touchdown percentage (38 touchdowns on 54 drives). He completed 44-of-67 passes for 315 yards, 21 touchdowns, with just one interception. Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald led all NFL wide receivers with 10 touchdowns inside the red zone.

"Fitzgerald is really good down there because of his size," Capers said. "They are going to look for him because you can throw the ball up and he is so strong and has strong hands, that if he has got any vision he can really go up and outfight the defender for the ball most of the time.

"You saw their game against us last week when they brought him underneath. He kind of ran through our coverage and hit him through the other side (for a 3-yard touchdown). I think it's a combination of Warner knowing exactly where to go with the ball and then you've got guys like Fitzgerald and (Anquan) Boldin."

Making strides

Veteran cornerback Al Harris, who sustained a season-ending left knee injury in the Packers' Week 11 win over San Francisco, said Friday that his rehabilitation is "moving along well."

Harris underwent surgery on Nov. 30 and said he has stayed in town for his rehab. He missed the final six games of the season, a stretch that saw the Packers go 5-1 and clinch a playoff berth.

"It's bittersweet," Harris said. "You want to be out there helping your team, and also you're happy for the guys that they got this thing turned around to where you've got a shot for the playoffs."

{sportsad300}Harris would not put a timetable on his return, but said he had no doubts that he will be back on the field.

"(The doctors) gave the map and I'm just going to follow the map," Harris said. "So however long they tell me it takes, that's when I expect for it to be well."

Cornerback Jarrett Bush, who moved into the nickel role after Harris got hurt, said Harris has still made contributions to the secondary group away from the field.

"He still talks to us about other receivers he has played against over the years," Bush said. "He is still our mentor. He is still the man. We still look up to him as a person, an athlete, a father, whatever, a brother. We ask questions still about techniques and stuff like that. He is still very interactive with us."

Injury/participation update

Safety Derrick Martin (ankle), who finished second on the team this season with 21 special teams tackles, did not participate for the third straight day and is doubtful for Sunday.

McCarthy said Martin still has a chance to play on Sunday, and that he made improvement during the course of the week.

"We've prepared either way for Derrick or without Derrick," McCarthy said. "He's a big part of our special teams. He actually was voted one of two special teams captains for the playoffs. We're going to give him every opportunity to try to make it back for the game."

Linebacker Brandon Chillar (back), tackle Chad Clifton (knee), fullback Korey Hall (elbow), defensive ends Johnny Jolly (foot) and Michael Montgomery (ankle), nose tackle Ryan Pickett (hamstring) and cornerback Charles Woodson (shoulder) all participated fully in Friday's practice and are probable.

For Arizona, Boldin (ankle) did not participate for the third straight day and is questionable for Sunday. Defensive end Calais Campbell (thumb), guard Deuce Lutui (back), cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (toe/knee), safety Antrel Rolle and quarterback Brian St. Pierre (back) are also questionable.

Running back Tim Hightower (knee), defensive end Kenny Iwebema (head), fullback Dan Kreider (neck), wide receiver Sean Morey (head), tight end Ben Patrick (head) and kicker Neil Rackers (right groin) are all probable.

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