Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews saw how successful Pete Carroll was as a college coach, playing — and not playing — for him at USC from 2005-08.
So Matthews says he wasn’t surprised when Carroll returned to the NFL and flourished with the Super Bowl-champion Seattle Seahawks, the Packers’ opponent Sunday in the NFC Championship Game.
“He had a successful program in my tenure there and years prior, and after me leaving,” Matthews said Thursday. “It’s always interesting to see how coaches do at the next level. He’s obviously done a fantastic job. He’s got the right athletes in place to help his scheme out. He’s doing a great job, and you’ve got to tip your hat to him.”
Carroll said his lateness in recognizing Matthews’ potential was one of the big mistakes during his time at SC, where Matthews didn’t become a starter until his senior season.
“It took him a long time to develop, and (I) didn’t recognize the great heart that he had and unbelievable competitiveness and the great savvy that he demonstrates now,” Carroll said. “It’s really one of my big misses. I should have figured that out a lot sooner than I did. He made the rest of it history and been an extraordinary player ever since.”
Since entering the league in 2009, Matthews is tied for the fifth-most NFL sacks with 61. This season, he leads the Packers with 11 sacks and made his fifth Pro Bowl. He was a first-team All-Pro in 2010.
However, Matthews didn’t seem interested in a detailed discussion about his relationship with Carroll heading into their weekend reunion.
“He was my college coach,” Matthews said, “so he helped me get here.”
The Packers will train in Green Bay Friday morning before flying out to Seattle.
The flight comes one day earlier than the club’s usual custom.
“We’ll have our meetings Saturday morning, and we’re looking at an indoor facility to do our Saturday work,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “We’ll be out there and kind of be on a normal schedule on Saturday night and get ready for a noon game. … These are things that we’ve been looking at for quite some time (with) our involvement in some of the new sports science themes and all those things.”
Most of the players seemed fine with the idea.
“Get us acclimated,” linebacker Nick Perry said. “It shouldn’t be a big deal.”
Still, change doesn’t always come easily.
“This hasn’t happened in my 10 years, so it’s a little easier probably for a rookie to make the adjustment,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “But all of us have to make sure we’re doing the proper preparation, especially Friday, which is usually a day of preparation and then I put together a presentation. Saturday we have meetings and stuff, so it will be a little disjointed when we get up there. We’ve got to make sure we’re focusing on the right things when we get there.”
The Packers’ practice report showed four players with limited participation: DT Josh Boyd (ankle), RB Eddie Lacy (knee), Rodgers (calf) and G Josh Sitton (toe).
Lacy’s appearance on the list was new.
“Eddie Lacy’s knee was sore,” McCarthy said. “I was just being conservative. … Eddie will be ready to go on Sunday. Just Coach was nervous.”