GREEN BAY, Wisc. -- The defense delivered several big hits in the Green Bay Packers' 22-9 win over rival Detroit on Sunday, but one of those may have a debilitating impact on the group for some time.
Star linebacker Clay Matthews suffered a broken right thumb on his sack of Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford to end the third quarter and could miss a handful of games, if not be in jeopardy of being out the rest of the season.
"I'm hopeful it's not season-ending," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said during his day-after-game news conference Monday afternoon. "I think we're all hopeful, but you have to get all of the (medical) opinions and make sure you always do right by the player."
McCarthy didn't reveal much else about Matthews' injury status, other than to say the All-Pro player was at "an appointment" Monday being further examined by presumably a hand specialist.
It's unclear whether Matthews would need surgery for the bone fracture in the thumb or would be able to play with a protective cast on the hand.
"I think anytime a player has an injury, particularly to the thumb and wrist area, there's so many small bones in there, it's always different and you're dealing with the small ligaments," McCarthy said when asked about the feasibility of Matthews playing with the club-like cast. "You have to get all of the information, and it's important for the specialists to look at that and weigh in on every individual particular injury, and this is exactly what's going on with Clay's case.
"We've had guys (in previous seasons) that played with (hand injuries) and didn't miss any time without a club, we've had guys play with clubs, and we've had guys that had to go to season-ending surgery."
Matthews left the game and walked with the team's medical personnel to the locker room for X-rays after he dropped Stafford for a 12-yard sack on a third-and-9 play in Packers territory on the final play of the third quarter.
"If you watch it, you can just kind of see at the end he kind of falls on (the thumb)," McCarthy said.
It was Matthews' team-leading third sack this season and one of five sacks the Packers had of Stafford in Sunday's game - all by linebackers.
Nick Perry led the pass-rushing assault with two sacks, one of which resulted in a fumble recovered by the Lions. Perry, a 2012 first-round draft pick, played in a reserve role for the first time this season as emerging Mike Neal, a converted defensive end, occupied the spot opposite Matthews at the start Sunday.
Neal had six tackles in the game, including a sack.
McCarthy said Monday the performances by Neal and Perry are reassuring about the depth the Packers have at outside linebacker should Matthews be sidelined indefinitely.
"I think Mike Neal did an exceptional job yesterday," McCarthy said. "He even went inside and played well, too. Clearly, probably one of Mike's better performances in his (four-year) career here. And, I thought Nick did an excellent job, too, with his opportunities - he was productive.
"We have guys that have experience, played games for us."
The depth at inside linebacker may be a question mark, however, after top backup Robert Francois sustained a season-ending torn Achilles' tendon only three plays before Matthews' injury.
Francois, a fourth-year player who has been a key contributor on Green Bay's special teams the last few seasons, had replaced injured starter Brad Jones on defense Sunday. Jones didn't play in the second half of the game because of an aggravated hamstring injury.
With Jones and Francois out, the Packers paired third-year player Jamari Lattimore with veteran A.J. Hawk the rest of the game.
Green Bay placed Francois on injured reserve Monday and filled his roster spot by promoting first-year cornerback James Nixon from the practice squad.
--RB James Starks (knee) is sidelined indefinitely because of the injury he incurred in the Sept. 22 loss at Cincinnati. Rookie Eddie Lacy, who had missed that game because of a concussion, replaced Starks as the featured back in the 22-9 victory over Detroit on Sunday and rushed for a personal-best 99 yards on 23 carries.
--CB Casey Hayward (hamstring) has yet to play this season because of his lingering leg injury. The second-year player took part in some drills during practice Thursday. It is yet to be determined how much work he will get on the practice field this week and whether he has any shot of being able to suit up for Sunday's game at Baltimore.
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