THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – LB Clay Matthews was eating breakfast the morning after the Rams' Oct. 3 Thursday night game against the Seahawks in Seattle, fully prepared to get ready for next week's home game against the 49ers, when he noticed a clicking sound while chewing his food.
Initially, doctors thought his jaw injury was a sprain. To his surprise, a precautionary visit revealed it was actually broken – stalling a promising start to his first season in Los Angeles which saw him produce 16 tackles and six sacks through the first five weeks.
"Obviously we had to wire it shut or do surgery. Figured it out," Matthews said. "But yeah, it's disappointing in that regard."
Fortunately for Matthews, the hardware that kept his mouth shut was removed "two or three weeks ago," and he's now back on the practice field this week as the Rams begin preparing for the Steelers, ready to put the injury behind him.
Getting to this point, though, required a long month of recovery and dietary restrictions.
Matthews said he could only eat soft food, so he began with oatmeal and eggs and gradually worked his way up. He estimates he lost "four or five" pounds from his diet of soft and blended food.
"Never realized how I much I enjoyed eating until you have your mouth wired shut," Matthews said. "But it was one of those ones that sucks, no doubt about it. Not only being hurt, but you don't realize how much you use your mouth every day, having your mouth wired shut. Especially when your kids don't listen to you, but that's another story."
Indeed, giving instructions to his children was going to be difficult. He could still talk while his mouth was wired shut, but it was all mumbled.
"I got pretty good at that," Matthews said.
From there, it was a matter of sticking to a straightforward rehab program.
"And then once it came off, obviously it just took a long time, as it does with any kind of broken extremity, to get those muscles firing and stuff. Eating, chilling, talking, doing exercises with jaw mobility is the best thing I could do."
Matthews has endured his fair share of injuries: A broken nose during a charity softball game in the summer of 2018, breaking his thumb twice in three months during the 2013 season, an ankle and a hamstring in 2016. This one, though, was different.
"Obviously I've never experienced this before and it was very much a freak injury," Matthews said. "Unfortunate, but hopefully we can put it all past us now and move forward without any more hiccups."
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When anticipating whether to come back or not, Matthews said it's difficult to simulate some of the hits a player is going to take in a live game.
While this injury is unlike any one he's had before, it's still the same in that the biggest key coming back from it is playing with confidence – something he feels based on conversations with the doctors, the x-rays, the CT scans and timeline he's been looking at.
"It feels good just having my helmet on it, being out there, just getting it jostled and everything," Matthews said. "I anticipate it to go well. Like I said, that's the thing about an injury – you've got to be able to have a confidence to come back and not played scared or reluctant."
Matthews said that if the Rams had a game last week, it would've been one of those situations where he would've been hesitant to play. Still, he said having the bye week helped. He's now five weeks removed from the injury, and when hen he returns, he'll be wearing a regular helmet.
His status is still uncertain for Sunday's game, but Rams head coach Sean McVay said that if Matthews progresses the right way throughout the week, he should be ready to roll. Matthews himself is confident in his chances of seeing the field.
"I tried my best to get all the nutrients I could, stay on top of my workout regiment as well as my conditioning," Matthews said. "I feel good. I feel like there shouldn't be that much of a drop-off once I come back, and hopefully my play on Sunday says so."