Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews looked considerably different Wednesday.

Maybe it was because his right hand wasn't surrounded in two miles of tape.

A week after trying to play with a padded club protecting his right thumb, Matthews showed up at practice wearing a much smaller brace that protected his thumb but appeared to give him the freedom to move his fingers.

"Based on the doctor's report, he's able to now, I don't even know what the term is," coach Mike McCarthy said. "I think this is a normal path. It starts to decrease each week."

Matthews suffered a Bennett's fracture to his right thumb Oct. 6 against the Detroit Lions and sat out four games. After five weeks of healing, the doctors did not feel his thumb was ready for the force it might suffer if he were hit in the hand, so they insisted on a club.

When the Packers face the Giants on Sunday, it will have been six weeks since the fracture took place and it's likely the bone is close to or completely healed. Presumably, the brace will protect his thumb from receiving the kind of jolt he suffered when he broke it.

Three specialists interviewed by the Journal Sentinel all said the normal healing time for the fracture is six weeks. They all concurred that if Matthews had tried to play before significant healing took place, he would be in danger of permanent damage.

Matthews was ineffective playing with the club and often looked frustrated. One of his strengths is using his strong grip to toss blockers aside and pull down quarterbacks and ball carriers. He had just one solo and two assisted tackles against Philadelphia.

Though Matthews was hindered less, fellow outside linebacker Nick Perry wasn't around at all. Perry, who missed three games with a broken foot, left the Eagles game with what is listed on the injury report as a foot/ankle injury.

What's more, Mike Neal sat out with an abdominal strain. For the second week in a row, McCarthy has referred to Neal as being "beat up." He said Neal was basically given a day off to recuperate.

The Packers did get back one outside linebacker. Rookie Andy Mulumba returned from an ankle sprain and took part in practice on a limited basis.

Other injuries: Cornerback Casey Hayward (hamstring), defensive end Johnny Jolly (groin), tackle Don Barclay (knee) and quarterback Aaron Rodgers (collarbone) did not participate.

Rodgers was not listed as out, which is typically the designation for someone who has no chance of playing. There's no indication the Packers believe Rodgers could play Sunday, but it is peculiar that he isn't listed as out.