PACKER NOTEBOOK: Stance change makes Kampman more comfortable
GREEN BAY (AP) — Aaron Kampman liked his role in the Green Bay Packers defense Sunday.
For the first time since the end of last season, the Pro Bowl defensive end-turned-linebacker had a chance to line up in a familiar down-lineman stance with his hand in the ground during the Packers' 26-0 win over the Detroit Lions.
"It was good coming out of there again," Kampman said.
He estimated he was used as a down lineman seven times Sunday, one of which resulted in a third-quarter sack of Lions backup quarterback Drew Stanton. It was only the second sack of the season for Kampman, who was converted to an outside linebacker in the Packers' new 3-4 scheme this year — a switch that usually leaves him in the unfamiliar role of standing up at the line of scrimmage.
"When there's opportunities to get don, it just made sense to do it a couple of times today," Kampman said. "It worked out pretty well."
Kampman's forte was sacking the quarterback when he lined up at defensive end in the Packers' old 4-3 scheme. He had 37 in the three previous seasons.
The veteran player didn't seem enamored with the idea of switching positions when the move was made to the 3-4 to include Kampman standing up and taking on pass-coverage responsibilities. The change came when Dom Capers was hired as defensive coordinator after last season.
"As far as playing with his hand on the ground, those are things that we talked about all the way back in the spring," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "We're going to continue to put all of our players, Aaron included, in the best position to be successful."
MATTHEWS PLAYS BIG: Rookie linebacker Clay Matthews helped set the tone for the Packers defense early in the game.
Matthews had two sacks of Lions quarterback Daunte Culpepper and stopped running back Kevin Smith for three tackles for loss.
The biggest stop was teaming with fellow rookie B.J. Raji on a tackle of Smith for a 1-yard loss on a fourth-and-1 run play in Packers territory in the first quarter.
"I'm always trying to make a big play within the framework of the defense," Matthews said. "Fortunately, I was able to do that, make a few stops and get them in third-and-longs in which we were able to get after them."
Matthews, one of the Packers' two first-round draft picks, replaced Brady Poppinga as the starter at right outside linebacker. It was Matthews' first stint as a full-time player after he missed parts of the offseason and the preseason because of a recurring hamstring injury.
Matthews technically made his first pro start in the Oct. 5 loss at Minnesota in a situational role. He had a big play in that game with a strip of running back Adrian Peterson that he returned 42 yards for a touchdown.
CLIFTON HURT AGAIN: The return of veteran left tackle Chad Clifton to the Packers' starting lineup didn't last long.
Clifton limped off the field with assistance late in the third quarter after re-injuring his right ankle.
He didn't return to the game and the extent of the injury wasn't immediately clear.
"I'll probably know more about him in the morning," McCarthy said.
Clifton played Sunday for the first time since suffering a severe sprain of the same ankle in a loss to Cincinnati on Sept. 20.
The latest injury occurred when quarterback Aaron Rodgers fumbled the football on a hit by Julian Peterson deep in Detroit territory.
"It's disappointing," McCarthy said. "We're not very healthy up front right now."
Rookie T.J. Lang replaced Clifton for the rest of the game.
The Packers also were without projected starting center Jason Spitz on Sunday. Spitz had a back injury flare up in practice Thursday and missed the rest of the week.
Scott Wells made his third straight start at center, despite being questionable for the game because of a hamstring injury that knocked him out of practice Thursday.
FLAG DAY: Before Clifton left the game, he was guilty of four of the Packers' season-high 13 penalties.
The infractions amounted to 130 yards.
"I'll tell you, it's frustrating, there's no denying that," McCarthy said.
The Packers had four penalties on special teams, including a hold on rookie Evan Dietrich-Smith that wiped out a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Jordy Nelson to start the game.
Green Bay is among the league leaders this season with 43 penalties for 359 yards.
"Penalties killed us tonight," said Colledge, who was penalized for unnecessary roughness at the end of Donald Driver's record-breaking catch in the first quarter.
CHANGES AT RETURNER: Nelson took over as the Packers' return specialist Sunday, but he bruised his knee in the first quarter and was held out of the game the last three quarters after coming back in briefly on offense.
X-rays taken on Nelson's knee were negative.
Nelson replaced Will Blackmon, who sustained a season-ending knee injury in the loss at Minnesota on Oct. 5.
Tramon Williams was the first to take over for Nelson and had a 45-yard punt return to the Lions' 29-yard line that led to a Mason Crosby field goal.
It was Williams' only chance, as fellow cornerback Charles Woodson took over on punt returns the rest of the game.