GREEN BAY — When the throng of television cameras and reporters surrounded Lucas Patrick’s locker on Monday afternoon, the Green Bay Packers offensive lineman knew it wasn’t because everyone wanted to talk about his fantastic blocking at left guard during organized team activity practices.
No, having been the guy whose line drive ricocheted off Clay Matthews’ face during Saturday’s charity softball game — sending Matthews to the emergency room with a broken nose that’ll require surgery when the swelling subsides — Patrick had a pretty good idea what the topic of conversation was going to be.
“I felt terrible. I ran right to him,” Patrick said. “I went up, and he was as calm and cool as could be. He’s a tough guy to hop up like he did. He helped settle my nerves. I felt terrible of course. I talked to him again today. He’s a nice guy. (I’m) praying for him. Hope everything heals up. He was as good a guy as you could be during that.
“It’s one of those fluke things. ... And that’s kind of what he said, too. The ball happened to come off my bat and hit him. It could’ve been anyone. I just was the unlucky one.”
Matthews went to the ground immediately after getting hit. He got up quickly but covered his face with his glove and was clearly bleeding as he walked off the field. Play was stopped and, when it resumed, Fox Cities Stadium officials brought out a batting practice pitching net to protect the pitchers thereafter.
“Just unfortunate,” Patrick said. “Looking back, after they put the net out, it just took one guy like me to hit the face of the franchise to realize we need a net.”
Matthews, a six-time Pro Bowler, had not been participating in the team’s organized team activity practices anyway because of a minor offseason knee surgery. He and wide receiver Davante Adams took over as headliners of the softball game after the Packers released wide receiver Jordy Nelson in March.
The game dates to 1994, and this marked the first significant injury to have come out of it. That’s why Packers coach Mike McCarthy said he didn’t plan on panicking after Matthews’ injury and telling the players to stop playing in the annual game.
“We don’t have any long-term concerns. We’re talking about scheduling surgery probably midweek. So it’s unfortunate, but it’s for a great cause, I’m just glad he’s OK,” McCarthy said. “I think (the softball game) great on a number of fronts. Anytime your players give back, charity involved in the community, that’s a great day for the fans. … I’m not going to overreact to this.”
The unfortunate thing for Patrick is he has had a strong offseason and has spent OTAs getting tons of first-team snaps with starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers because usual starting left guard Lane Taylor is out following ankle surgery. Patrick figures to compete with Justin McCray for the open right guard spot when training camp opens.
“I think any first-team reps are crucial,” said Patrick, who started two games last season after spending all of his rookie year on the practice squad. “Whether it’s left guard, center, right guard. I mean, wherever it happens to be, whoever is up or down that day, it doesn’t really matter. I just think any time you can build chemistry with the guys up front, especially ‘12,’ it’s really important.”
Rodgers talks contract
Rodgers dismissed talk about his contract situation after an NFL Network report last week said it is “extremely important” to the quarterback to have some control over his future in his impending extension — be that in the form of a player-option or something else.
“I don’t talk about it to the media and I don’t think my agent is, either. A lot of it is just conjecture and stories that aren’t really based in factual interactions or misrepresented actions. I think that’s just part of it,” Rodgers said. “It’s kind of a slow period for football right now and we’re heading into the summer, when there’s not much to talk about unless somebody gets arrested or injured in the offseason or something happens on the Fourth of July. That’s usually stories you get from now until training camp.
“I don’t have anything to report at this point but I’m sure there will be some unnamed sources close to me that have some sort of scoop along the way.”
Rodgers said because he has two years remaining on his current deal he has no plans to tell agent David Dunn to cut off contract talks if an agreement isn’t reached before training camp or before the Sept. 9 regular-season opener. “I’ve got two years left on my deal so I don’t have a drop-dead date. I expect to play at an MVP-caliber level this year, like I do every year. I’m not worried about it,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers did say, however, it remains important to him to finish his career having played for only one team.
“When I first got to Green Bay, one of the fun things was to see at the first Fan Fest I was at was to see Max McGee and Bart Starr and Jerry Kramer and Fuzzy Thurston and some of the old greats, and it would be fun to have that connection still to the state and the team and the region,” Rodgers said. “That was part of (becoming a minority owner) with the (Milwaukee) Bucks. The other being that I love basketball, and I’m excited to be a part of it.
“I’ve said it before: Every player would love to be able to pick when and how they finish up. That usually doesn’t happen, though. So I’m going to try to play as well as I can for a number of years and hopefully it’s here the entire time.”
Williams making impression
Rodgers had high praise for 35-year-old cornerback Tramon Williams, who returned to the team this offseason after leaving as a free agent after the 2014 season. Williams spent two seasons with the Cleveland Browns —including one under now-Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine — and last year with the Arizona Cardinals. Rodgers’ comments about Williams came in response to a question about rookie cornerbacks Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson.
“I said it walking off the field today, the biggest difference on the back end is (No.) 38,” Rodgers said. “He is, as of right now, in my humble opinion, the best on that side of the ball. And you want your best players to be the best guys in the locker room, and there’s nobody better than Tramon. It’s great having him back.
“Those young guys, I would tell them — and will tell them here at some point, ‘Watch (Williams) because there’s a reason that guy’s been around as long as he has —undrafted, practice squad, one of the biggest players in our Super Bowl run and then he’s back here to finish it up. It’s really fun.”
Adams, who had not been practicing because of a hamstring injury, returned to practice but did not do any 11-on-11 work. The same was true of wide receiver Trevor Davis, who’d also been out with a hamstring injury. … McCarthy dismissed any concerns about safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix’s continued absences from OTAs. “Ha Ha, just like a number of veterans, when we start the offseason program, we go through everybody’s individual schedule,” McCarthy said. “Things do come up, so he’s had a personal situation that he’s attended to. So I have no concerns.” … Center Corey Linsley was not practicing because of some back pain but said after practice that it’s not a major concern. He dealt with a back issue last season but played through it. … McCarthy said he is “thinking about” giving veterans next week’s minicamp off, as he has in past years in order to devote the practice time to young players.