This is a long interview. But some good bits in here. I think he's coming into 2014 with his hair on fire.
LOS ANGELES — If Clay Matthews is rushing the quarterback from one side of the Green Bay Packers defense and Julius Peppers from the other, who will opponents double team?
Matthews thinks he knows the answer — and it's not him, which would be a welcome change given the largely forgettable cast of pass rushers he has teamed with over the past five years.
"This guy's (6-7), 290. I'm 6-4 on a good day and 255," Matthews told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday night during a break from a commercial shoot at his alma mater, USC.
"They're going to double the big guy, and that leaves plenty of opportunities for me. I haven't had too many one-on-one opportunities, and when you do, you're expected to win — at least in our locker room — the majority of the time, because that's supposed to be a mismatch."
Matthews, 27, has 50 sacks through five NFL seasons. Peppers, 34, has 118½ sacks in 12 seasons, making him easily the most accomplished pass rusher Matthews has played with since Aaron Kampman blew out a knee back in 2009.
The plan is for Peppers to be a hybrid player in Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers' scheme, and that's fine with Matthews, who has no plans to ease back into action after a 2013 season disrupted and ultimately ended by two surgeries on his right thumb.
In an interview with USA TODAY Sports, Matthews also discussed his place in the record books, Kevin Greene's departure from the coaching staff, being excited about starting the offseason program next week and why nobody should compare his thumb injury to Brett Favre's.
Q: How's the thumb?
A: It's going well. I had surgery (Dec. 24), and I maybe got (the pins) out late January. Almost immediately, I pushed myself to get back in the gym. Obviously, I had to be smart. But it started with rigorous physical therapy three times a week, just because the way in which I injured it wasn't like a typical break. We had to treat it more like a soft tissue injury — like an ACL or something — because it required manipulating the tendon and drilling holes in bones and this and that. I asked my team doctor, 'When's the last time you've seen this injury in the NFL?' Couldn't name one. That's why when you deal with (people saying), 'Brett Favre played with a broken thumb.' My thumb was out here! There's no way he could even grip a ball! I have a good picture I can show anyone of my hand after surgery. It honestly looks like I got a shark attack.
Q: What are these three sets of stitches up your forearm?
A: It's called a tendon transfer. I broke it (the first time), and they did a closed-pin reduction. (The thumb) was dislocated, so they put it back in there. The bones line up, but it was a real small piece of the bone. So, everything was fine. I was coming out, I was working hard, and I was in a cast. And unfortunately, on a sack of (Ben) Roethlisberger (on Dec. 22), the tip of my thumb (hit) my teammate's helmet. All that pressure went down the cast, broke it again. So then, to make it tighter, we took part of the tendon, turned it around, drilled some holes and they almost tied a knot through. It's stronger than (the left one). Now it's super tight.
Q: If you hold your hands up, palms-out, do they look different?
A: Well, you wouldn't be able to tell. It's just very stiff. I'm only two months out, but I've been working out. It's definitely made a lot of progress. I don't know what the percentages are, but I think I'm at about 75, 80% of where it needs to be, because your dominant arm's supposed to be 10% stronger than, in my case, my left arm. It's getting there. By the time the season rolls around, it'll be fine. I'm optimistic about it. I mean, I've never heard of a career-ending thumb injury, but no one had heard of a Bennett's fracture when I had done that.
Q: How'd you feel you played in the games between the injuries?
A: Quite honestly, I clubbed it up, and I was just a number out there, because we didn't have enough people to suit up (against) Philly. By far my worst professional game, but there was a legitimate excuse. After that, I got into a thumb-spica cast and played the Giants. I had a sack. Obviously, it was still very difficult, because it was always like this — I was playing with one hand for seven games. But I still had 4½ sacks in seven games with one hand. I was like, 'If I can just get out of this cast, I'd be all right.'
Q: Did the medical staff ever tell you, like, 'This is a dumb idea to come back?'
A: No. In fact, the doctor — I even told him, 'Listen, there's no one to blame here, but I thought you said I wouldn't get hurt.' He's like, 'I thought so, too.' And I wasn't worrying about it unless I was playing football. It felt good. It felt like it did now. But it was a big hit. I came around, and it was, 'Whap!' All that pressure went up (the cast).
Q: It had to feel 10 times worse than the first one.
A: Physically, yes, and also emotionally more than anything, just knowing that the season was over for me. I'd have to have surgery again, which was very difficult in my dominant hand — showering, eating food, dressing, even traveling with the team, taking your clothes off, buttoning up your pants. It was just a pain. But it's getting better. I can work out and do everything I can with very little limitation.
Q: You guys must have the worst recent injury history in the NFL.
A: The Packers? Yeah. Aaron (Rodgers). Randall Cobb. James Jones was out. Eddie Lacy had a bad ankle for a while. Hey, we're just thankful we made (the playoffs). But we got healthy at the right time.
Q: Except you.
A: Except me. That's Optimistic Clay. We got healthy at the right time, and, of course, we just came up a little short in the playoffs. Especially with Aaron back in charge of the offense and a few guys coming back here and there, it looked like we were primed to make a run again. We should every year.
Q: Now you have an established pass rusher opposite you in Julius Peppers for the first time — probably in your entire career.
A: I'm excited about it. Most people are curious as to how they're going to use him in a 3-4 scheme, but I don't think it matters. I think you line him up on the field in a zero-, one-, three-, five-, seven-, nine-technique — he's going to get attention, and he's going to get double teams. It's going to create opportunities for one of us on the field to have our one-on-one matchups, and that's where that person needs to win. If you look at two guys on the field, you've got 52 (Matthews' jersey number) and 56 I think is his new number. ... Then you add Mike Daniels, (who) came off a very good second year. I think he had 6½ sacks and another one in the playoffs. Nick Perry was doing well (until) he had a freak accident where someone landed on his ankle and broke his heel bone. Mike Neal — I know we just re-upped him for another two years — he had a pretty good year. B.J. (Raji) coming back. He's got a one-year (contract) to showcase his talents again. So, I think we have a lot of pieces. It's about putting it together now. We'll see, but I'm excited about it, because it provides kind of a new spark and a new energy.
Q: It's an interesting time to be an NFC North pass rusher. Peppers goes from the Bears to the Packers. Jared Allen goes from the Vikings to the Bears.
A: I saw something on the Internet: 'Hey, is Clay coming to Minnesota?' No.
Q: You're five years into your career. How do you feel about your career so far and where do you see things going the next five years?
A: To say that I'd have this much success in the NFL is — I'd be lying to you if I said I saw myself there. I was probably naïve in thinking or a little ignorant in thinking of long-term goals. I was just trying to take it a day at a time. I guess that's what happened at SC. I figured when I got to SC, 'If I could get on some special teams, that'd be neat. If I can get some time at linebacker, that'd be even better.' Then it was, 'I think I deserve to be starting.' Then it was, 'If I can get drafted ... if I can go fourth, third, second (round) ... hey, I could slip into that first (round) and then ...' At that point, I think my overall drive and will (took over), and from being at the proverbial bottom as a walk-on to having a first-round opportunity is amazing. I never wanted to go back there. I still don't. I don't want to be the guy who gets replaced in the starting lineup. You'll get that same effort that I think people have grown accustomed to watching me out there. For (the next) five years, I expect to see myself here, but realistically, it's hard. Every year, I set this goal. Super Bowl championship, four Pro Bowls, two All-Pros, a league (defensive) MVP runner-up — it's pretty good. But the thing about this league that separates the guys who have Hall of Fame careers is, how long can you do it for? Five years is a good career, but I want to do this thing 10, 13 years.
Q: Do you start to look at the career numbers, sacks and stuff like that?
A: I've been looking at that since I was a rookie. In fact, I was pissed because last year we played in a playoff game, and I'm only a half-sack behind Reggie White for postseason (sacks) as a Packer. He's got eight. I've got 7½. I think KGB (Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila) has (74½ sacks and I have 50 for my career right now, so I've got a ways to go. But I think Aaron Kampman has 54, so I can move up past him. I got lucky, because Reggie White only spent, what, eight years (in Green Bay)? So, we don't have a true guy who dominated here for a whole career. For me, all those goals are attainable. You can call it arrogant — I just call it confidence — but I know I'm going to make my plays when I'm out there. It's just about being healthy.
Q: So, you aim for the Packers' sack record, and then you start thinking top-10 all time, top-five, all-time?
A: Well, I think when you're at that (franchise) sack record, you get (75 and you think), '100 would be pretty cool.' Julius, (John) Abraham, DeMarcus (Ware) — you know who's up there. But I'll tell you what, I was coached by Kevin Greene for the last five years and he's at 160. That's a lot of sacks. You have to steal a 20-sack season in there somewhere, or else you have to play 16 seasons and get 10 sacks a year. I'm on five years, 50 sacks, but at the same time, it's hard.
Q: Did you see it coming that Kevin Greene was going to step away from coaching?
A: No, I didn't. Kevin takes the game so seriously. He's one of the few guys who I know who actually plays for the love of the game, and he believes in a team philosophy, a team goal. It's refreshing to see, because a lot of guys will climb the political ranks and they play that game — not to say that's with the Packers. But I think losing really just ate at him. He loved winning. He loved winning, and you can't fault him for it. I love winning, too. Like I tell my dad — he wants to get into coaching, too — those guys are there (at the team facility) longer than I am, and I can find myself complaining about how long I'm there. So, I understood (Greene's decision), and I was very thankful for the time I had with him. He taught me a lot. But I'm really also excited about moving forward with a new coach and hopefully picking up a few things here from a veteran guy like Peppers as well as now, with the inside linebackers, hopefully forming a cohesive group of working off one another — 'I zig, you zag' type of thing.
Q: The Packers ranked 25th in yards allowed and tied for 24th in points allowed last season. What's the level of confidence in your defensive coordinator, Dom Capers?
A: Everybody's excited about our defense and what we're capable of. The injuries and some shortcomings here and there — it's been our Achilles' heel for a few years now. But we've always led the league in one category. We'll lead the league in sacks but give up the most yards. We'll have the most turnovers, but have the most (of something else). We need to operate on all cylinders. When you have an offense with Aaron Rodgers and those guys over on that side who are going to score at minimum, at least 24 points a game — I'm being (conservative) — you expect your defense to take care of their end of the bargain.
Q: Do you personally come back a little ticked off after last season?
A: This year especially. It's funny, I've been telling people how for me personally, it was almost a week after the season, and I'm like, 'I'm ready to get back after it.' Most offseasons, I'm like, 'Ohhhh, I have to go back for the offseason program,' just because you get into a routine of your offseason working out. But for me personally, even when we've lost the last couple of years in the playoffs, there's always a conclusion to the season. And you're OK with that. You don't have to like it, but there's going to be 31 losers and one winner. You get that. So, I take about a month off to relax. But now, here I am — I'm champing at the bit to get back to work. I'm excited to get back to being healthy and get back to doing what I do, and that's make plays.
Q: Is there any doubt in your mind the injury's going to be a non-issue?
A: It's been getting better, so I have no doubt. Obviously, OTAs will probably be one thing. I can't imagine I'll be too heavily involved with some of the stuff. I'm sure I can do stuff here and there. But yeah, we risked it once, and unfortunately, it didn't pay off.
Q: But when training camp opens in late July, you're full-go?
Here's the thing I love about Emery. When he sees a problem or deficiency, he attacks it via multiple angles. He doesn't just sign one FA, he drafts the position as well. I think the Trestman/Emery duo are going to have a fantastic run in Chicago.
Welcome to another edition of Fedya's (the voice of reason's) "Movies to Tivo" thread, for the week of April 14-20, 2014. Easter is this Sunday, so we'll have some Easter movies on Sunday, but more on that later. Monday is the 20th anniversary of everybody's favorite movie channel, TCM, and that's being celebrated, along with a 90th anniversary and some birthdays. There are good movies on other channels, too. As always, all times are in Eastern, unless otherwise mentioned.
Mickey Rooney died last week, and TCM is running a 24-hour programming tribute to Rooney that started at 6:00 AM this morning. Among the movies coming up overnight is Babes on Broadway, at 2:15 AM Monday. Mickey Rooney plays a young man who sings at an Italian restaurant (watch for future director Richard Quine, who's also part of the act). He's discovered by talent agent Fay Bainter, who tries to get her boss (James Gleason) to put Rooney on stage. Meanwhile, as part of the attempt to et on stage, Rooney is gathering up as much juvenile talent as he can, with the excuse that they're going to put on a charity show to get orphan children the chance to spend some time out in the fresh air. Judy Garland is by far the best of that talent, of course. But, as Rooney gets the kids ready for the show, success starts to go to his head, threatening everything. Watch for Rooney doing his best Carmen Miranda impression, too.
As I said earlier, Monday, April 14 is the actual 20th anniversary of TCM. The very first movie that TCM aired back on April 14, 1994, was Gone With the Wind, and that's going to be airing at 8:00 PM Monday. You know the story of Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh), a beautiful Georgia belle on the verge of the Civil War, being in love with Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard), except that he marries Melanie (Olivia de Havilland). So Scarlett responds by going after a series of men, both during and after the War, eventually trying her damnedest to get Rhett Butler (Clark Gable). Frankly, though, he doesn't give a damn. Along the way, she turns a curtain into a dress (cue the Psycho music), and teaches Butterfly McQueen something 'bout birthin' babies. There's some lovely Technicolor photography too, and a spectacular sequence of the burning of Atlanta.
Following Gone With the Wind, TCM will be re-airing the Private Screenings interview from earlier this year in which TCM host Robert Osborne himself was the interviewee. It's hosted by Alec Baldwin, and features all sorts of clips: from Osborne's early days as an actor, to an awkward appearance with Shelley Winters on the Dinah Shore Show, to being an entertainment correspondent on one of the many incarnations of CBS' morning show, to being a TCM host. Note the bit from the first day in which Osborne mentions that TCM is also going to air more recent movies, for those of you who bitch that I only recommend old movies. Perhaps more fun, though, are the beer commercials Osborne did when he was trying to become an actor, or his appearance in the pilot of The Beverly Hillbillies. It's a fun look at the host we all know and love.
If anybody's up for a service comedy, I suppose you could do worse than to watch Tuesday's TCM lineup, which has several. One that I don't think I've recommended before is Don't Go Near the Water, at 4:00 PM Tuesday. Glenn Ford plays a naval officer in World War II who, having served admirably, is sent to a base in the South Pacific for some lighter duty. This base is the base of operations for the public relations unit, headed by Fred Clark, whose character was in advertising back home but who also likes having the power he does here. Ford wants to get back into active duty since it offers better chances for promotion, as does Russ Tamblyn. But stuck on this backwater island, Ford is reduced to helping Earl Holliman get his girl (a nurse played by Anne Francis), while pursuing local teacher Gia Scala. There's not much plot to this amiable movie which veers closer to sketch comedy, although there is one sequence involving a hero sailor who unforutnately also swears like a sailor, which won't do for the PR tours.
Tragic actress Marie Prevost (Prevost is the actual spelling of her name) was born in November 1898, but is getting a daytime salute on TCM on Wednesday. Prevost plays the second woman to Joan Crawford in Paid, which is on at 8:30 AM. Crawford plays a woman who, at the start of the movie, is working as a department store clerk. However, she gets framed for a store robbery she didn't commit, and gets sent to prison for three years by what she sees as a corrupt legal system. So she studies law in prison, vowing to use the system against everybody else when she gets out. Prevost plays one of the fellow prisoners, and when the two of them get out, they team up with some other small-time con artists to engage in schemes that she intends to stay just on the right side of the law, much to the consternation of the DA (Hale Hamilton). The muscle of the group, however, has his eyes on bigger things, legality be damned.
Wednesday night's theme on TCM is butlers falling in love, although to be honest, a couple of them are fake butlers, as in If You Could Only Cook, at 10:30 PM. The fake butler is played by Herbert Marshall, who is in fact an automobile executive. He's been henpecked by a board that doesn't appreciate his ideas, as well as a fiancée he doesn't particularly like. So he runs off and winds up on a park bench, where he meets Jean Arthur, who's out of work (this is the Depression) and down on her luck, reading the want ads. Marshall pretends to have been a butler, and gets the two of them jobs as a cook and butler. The catch, though, is that the cook and butler are supposed to be married, so they have to feign marriage. The other catch is that the guy who hires them, Leo Carrillo, is actually a gangster, and his second-in-command, Lionel Stander, suspects there's something up with the new employees. Oh, and the board of the auto company and the jilted fiancée are still looking for Marshall, of course. Jean Arthur is great at this sort of screwball material, and Marshall is better than you might think.
I mentioned at the beginning that there's going to be a 90th anniversary salute this week, and that salute is to MGM, the studio that had more stars than there were in the firmament. On April 17, 1924, theater owner Marcus Loew gained control over Metro, Goldwyn Pictures, and Louis B. Mayer Pictures, using the initials to make the name MGM. TCM is honoring that occasion by showing 48 hours of movies produced in MGM's first 40 years. TCM is bookending this marathon with Ben-Hur: first up, at 6:00 AM Thursday, is the 1925 silent and partially two-strip Technicolor version of the story, while the 1959 version comes on at 2:00 AM Saturday. Both movies tell the story of Judah Ben-Her (played by Ramon Novarro in 1925 and Charlton Heston in 1959), Jewish man and friend of Roman officer Massala (Francis X. Bushman and Stephen Boyd). Ben-Hur accidentally kills a Roman, becomes a galley slave for it, is strongly influenced by Jesus, and then regains his pride of place after beating Massala in a climactic chariot race. If you've seen the TCM short on letterboxing, which airs all the time, you'll remember Sydney Pollack saying he gets the heebie-jeebies thinking of Ben-Hur panned and scanned. But if you watch the 1925 version, you'll see that the chariot race in that film is almost as magnificent as in the 1959 version.
Last week, I recommended the movie Yellow Sky. In the 1960s, it was remade as The Jackals, and that remake shows up on FXM/the Fox Movie Channel, at 10:45 AM Friday. This time the starring role goes to the grandfather character, played by Vincent Price. He's in 19th century South Africa prospecting for gold with his granddaughter, when a gang of bank robbers stop by, having made a difficult journey through the desert. They of course figure out that there's a reason this old guy is here, and soon enough they figure out what that reason is. Some of them want the gold for themselves, although by now the head of the gang has fallen in love with the granddaughter and thinks the gang would be safer off with just the money they have, not trying to harass this grandfather for the gold. This is a close enough remake to Yellow Sky that screenwriter Lamar Trotti received credit for it as he did for Yellow Sky -- even though he'd been dead for 15 years by the time The Jackals was made!
Some of you complain that I recommend movies that are too old. I say nonsense: look at how many talkies I recommend! But if you're one of those philistines who only likes movies after 1980 or so, I've got one for you this week: Witness, airing at midnight Sunday (or 11:00 PM LFT Saturday) on Encore's east coast feed, with the west coast feed showing it at 3:00 AM Sunday. Kelly McGIllis plays an Amish woman traveling to Baltimore with her son (Lukas Haas) to see her sister. Unfortunately, at the train station in Philadelphia, the boy witnesses a murder as part of a drug deal gone bad in the train station restroom. Harrison Ford plays the detective assigned to the case, and is stunned when the boy identifies a fellow policeman, a narcotics officer played by Danny Glover, as the killer. (He shouldn't be surprised, given the corruptitude of the police.) The narc comes after Ford, and it's obvious he's going to come after the kid too, so Ford goes to he Amish community to try to keep the kid safe as well as go into hiding himself. The narc is on his trail though, and further complicating things is not only the culture clash between the police detective and the conservative Amish, but the fact that he and McGillis begin to develop feelings for each other.
Sunday is of course, Easter, and TCM will be spending the morning and afternoon with good old fashioned Easter stories. So if Ben-Hur wasn't enough for you as a Christian story, you could also watch something like Barabbas, at 8:00 AM Sunday. Those of you who remember your Bible stories from Sunday school or are still regular churchgoers will recognize the namr Barabbas as the criminal who was set to be crucified at the same time as Jesus, but whom Pontius Pilate (Arthur Kennedy) got the mob to set free to crucify Jesus in his place. Barabbas (played by Anthony Quinn) perhaps unsurprisingly wonders why his life was spared, and goes on a long sprawling journey that at first certainly doesn't involve hsi becoming Christian in any way. Ultimately, it leads to the gladiatorial arena, where he has to fight top gladiator Jack Palance to try to redeem himself. One other note: the solar eclipse in the movie is the real thing, not a Hollywood special effect.
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