Published September 12, 2015
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Star receiver Jordy Nelson is a big fan of the Green Bay Packers' annual Family Night practice, which is held during training camp in front of a packed house at Lambeau Field.
"It's kind of fun to do this one because there's like 90 percent kids and 10 percent adults," Nelson said Friday, contrasting the crowd demographics with those who attend a game. "So it's a little different atmosphere -- a lot of high-pitched screaming and a lot of fun."
Linebacker Clay Matthews will have to enjoy this year's Family Night buzz generated by about 70,000 people Saturday on the sideline, however. Green Bay's defensive standout is dealing with some knee soreness, which has kept him out of practice all week.
"Hopefully it's not too much longer," Matthews said after practice Friday.
Noting the team's medical staff is just being smart by keeping him off the field since Monday, Matthews is hopeful he can return to action next week, possibly in time for the Packers' first preseason game. That comes Thursday with a road matchup against the Super Bowl champion Patriots.
Matthews insists the setback early in training camp isn't serious and certainly not cause for concern among Packers fans.
"I wouldn't worry about me," Matthews said. "I'm sure there's other people that might need some worrying about them. But I'll be back shortly, and hopefully get back to making some plays."
Having passed the missed time at practice by doing some on-field coaching, Matthews could have plenty of company on the sideline for Family Night.
The Packers' revamped linebacking group, which featured Matthews getting considerable work at an inside spot before his prolonged absence, has been depleted by injury. Green Bay went into Friday's padded practice without four linebackers: Nick Perry, Adrian Hubbard, Mike Neal and Matthews.
Perry, a 2012 first-round draft pick, and Hubbard suffered groin injuries earlier in the week. Neal, a sixth-year pro, has been on the physically unable to perform list since the start of camp after reportedly having hernia surgery in the offseason.
By the end of practice Friday, which coach Mike McCarthy shortened by 30 minutes, the Packers were down to only four outside linebackers after Jayrone Elliott went out with a sore shoulder.
Josh Francis, a first-year player at inside linebacker, also dropped out of practice with a hip injury.
"I think it's, really, training camp," McCarthy said. "Every year you go through this, you have positions that are stressed at different parts of it. You adjust practice, and really the way you adjust practice is how you utilize your personnel. Those are the things we look at."
Even though Matthews' missed practice days have now exceeded those in which he participated since camp started July 30, McCarthy isn't fretting.
The Packers still haven't finished their installation phases in practice. Those wrap up Saturday.
McCarthy is confident the ongoing transition by Matthews, a five-time Pro Bowl player at outside linebacker, to the inside hasn't been stunted by Matthews being out with the knee injury. McCarthy cited the importance of Matthews having the entire offseason to get acclimated to the new position after he was moved there on a part-time basis during the second half of last season.
"Yeah, he needs reps just like everybody else, but I'm not of high concern because he's been able to learn the position from start to finish," McCarthy said.
NOTES: Starting RB Eddie Lacy said Friday the sore foot that forced him out of practice Tuesday is fine. "I came in, got a lot of treatment, and I was able to get back out there and keep practicing," said Lacy, who returned to the field Thursday after the team had a day off. . Starting RG T.J. Lang (shoulder) and rookie CB Damarious Randall (groin) were pulled from Friday's practice. . Undrafted rookie RB John Crockett practiced for the first time in training camp. He had been out with an ankle injury.