Matthews named Sporting News NFC Defensive Player of the YearWisconsin Sports
-- The Sporting News has named Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews as the defensive player of the year in the NFL.
GREEN BAY - The Sporting News has named Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews as the defensive player of the year in the NFL.
Players, coaches, and team executives chose several award winners and an All-Pro team – and Matthews was the only Packer to make that squad. Matthews, a second-year pro, had 13-and-a-half sacks in the regular season along with two forced fumbles and an interception which he returned for a touchdown. Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamulu finished second in Matthews’ category. The Sporting News also named Tom Brady of New England as its offensive player-of-the-year – Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick as the top comeback player – and Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh as rookie-of-the-year. Atlanta’s Mike Smith is the honored coach, and Eagles’ offensive chief Mike Mularkey is the coordinator of the year.
The Green Bay Packers had only two players miss practice today, as they get ready to face the Falcons in Atlanta Saturday night in an NFC divisional playoff battle. Linebacker Frank Zombo was not cleared to return after he sprained a knee ligament December 12th at Detroit. And back-up center Jason Spitz was out with a calf injury. Chad Clifton, Cullen Jenkins, Clay Matthews, and Ryan Pickett were all limited today – mostly with lingering aches-and-pains. Linebacker Diyral Briggs was also limited with an ankle injury he’s had for awhile. Coach Mike McCarthy said Pickett was fine as he deals with ankle problem. The team had shorter practices this week to make sure the players’ bodies are ready for Saturday night. McCarthy said the practice plays were cut way back, but the team still had its full complement of offense, defense, and special teams’ drills. The Packers held their last practice of the week, with the game being a day earlier than normal. A full injury report won’t come out until tomorrow.
The Green Bay Packers lost a big chunk of their offense in October, when tight end Jermichael Finley went down for the season with a knee injury. But his three back-ups are finally starting to make some noise, just in time for the playoffs. The tight ends have scored a touchdown in each of their last three contests, after going seven games without scoring. 30-year-old Donald Lee caught three T-D’s in the regular season, including one each in the Packer victories over the New York Giants and Chicago. First-year tight end Tom Crabtree caught his first career touchdown pass in last Sunday’s Wild Card win at Philadelphia. Fifth-round rookie Andrew Quarless has also had some big catches as of late. All told, Green Bay’s tight ends dropped their pass-catching production from 99 receptions and one-thousand-48 receiving yards in 2009 to 57 catches this season for 673 yards. And their five touchdowns are half of what they scored the previous season. Still, tight ends coach Ben McAdoo says he has an “all hands on deck” group now, after missing some swagger right after Finley got hurt. McAdoo says the three players are getting the job done by committee – and they work with each other with no jealousy whatsoever. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers says he’s happy with their production as well.