GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Green Bay Packers fans who arrived in big numbers for the first practice of training camp Saturday caught their first glimpse of a potentially dangerous pass rushing duo.
Linebacker Clay Matthews had the green light to jump in for drills after mostly watching the offseason workouts as he completed his recovery from a twice-surgically-repaired right thumb.
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers didn't waste any time showcasing the pairing of Matthews and Julius Peppers as his starting outside linebackers. Peppers, the veteran star signed as a free agent in March, made the adjustment from being exclusively a defensive end to linebacker in the offseason program with Matthews sidelined.
"That's why they're here," coach Mike McCarthy. "Obviously, two very impactful players, so you definitely want them on the field at the same time as much as possible."
Much to the delight of Matthews, the arrival of another formidable quarterback tormentor is allowing him to move around frequently in Capers' array of formations. The changes in position were frequent Saturday.
"They definitely had me moving around from lining up in the middle of the field as a stack 'backer to the left, to the right, lining up in the slot, and just putting more of our playmakers on the field," Matthews said. "I think the problem that it presents for the offense is so many moving pieces. It allows me to use a multitude of my weapons and not just lining up in one spot rushing the passer.
"I think it's about mismatches and putting us in advantageous positions. We'll see how that does moving forward, but I felt good about it (Saturday), and hopefully it will only get better moving forward."
Matthews also is feeling good about where he is at health-wise. He missed six games last season because of the broken thumb, including the final two games after sustaining another fracture.
He classified the status of the thumb at the start of the preseason as "strong to quite strong."
"I needed the extra time to heal up, and now that I've got those extra couple months, I feel good going into camp," Matthews said. "It feels even mentally better (for me), stronger with the time I've had off and the rehab and the eight months in between the (last) surgery date and coming out here (Saturday). So I'm feeling strong about it, feeling good.
"Obviously, there will be some obstacles for me to overcome, but ultimately I think it was a good first day."
Matthews had the benefit of the first practice being in just shells, thus reducing the contact for the thumb. He is wearing a protective brace on his right hand.
Green Bay also is encouraged about young tight end returnees Brandon Bostick, Ryan Taylor and Jake Stoneburner as well as rookie prospects Richard Rodgers and Colt Lyerla.
"I like our tight ends," McCarthy said. "I think that's a group that we've really got to get a lot of pad work (in camp). If there was ever, if you wanted to say, 'OK, what group progressed (from the offseason)?' You went, 'OK, wow!' (about the tight ends) in spring."