GREEN BAY - Clay Matthews wasn’t always the commercial-starring, quarterback-intimidating presence he is today. His first two years at Southern California, he often ran scout team opposite Heisman Trophy winning running back Reggie Bush.
"Obviously he gave me a fair share of welcome to college [plays],” said Matthews. “Maybe now it'll be the other way around."
Matthews and his Green Bay defensive teammates get their shot Sunday, facing a rejuvenated Reggie, flourishing early in his tenure with the Lions.
"He's making some unbelievable runs,” said Packers defensive lineman Ryan Pickett. “They're blocking for him well, he's just opening up their whole offense. Their offense was already pretty dynamic. He took it to another level."
While the Packers haven't had a thousand-yard rusher since Ryan Grant in 2009, no Lion has gone over a thousand on the ground since 2004 when Kevin Jones racked up 1,113 yards. Bush is on pace for over 1,300 rushing yards and nearly a thousand receiving.
"When you have someone like Reggie Bush, you just put it in his hands, he makes things happen,” said cornerback Tramon Williams.
Mike McCarthy praises Bush’s ability to be a three-down back, able to stay on the field because of his ability to catch passes and screens in addition to running between the tackles when needed. Through three games, Bush is averaging 16 carries per game. He’s never averaged more than 14.4 rushes per game for a season.
Packers linebacker Mike Neal says Bush is one of those guys that causes defensive players to hit pause and rewind when watching film because of the impressive plays he makes. He also compares Bush to another running back rather familiar to Packers fans.
"With his cutting and his ability to keep running after he gets hit, it's similar to just a smaller Adrian Peterson,” said Neal. “He's doing a great job. He's a tremendous player, we have to account for him."
As for Matthews, he hopes to fare a little better against Bush on Sunday than he did during their collegiate practice field sessions in Southern California.
"He's definitely playing very well,” said Matthews. “It looks like he has new life playing out there, that offense definitely features him. To be honest, this is the first time I feel like I'll be able to contribute to stopping him."
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