Mike McCarthy preparing to have Woodson and Matthews ready for Bears game?

As we head into the stretch run of the regular season, the Green Bay Packers and head coach Mike McCarthy seem to be preparing for both Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews to return to the line up next week against the Bears.

McCarthy wanted both Woodson (collarbone) and Matthews (hamstring) in pads doing a limited amount of banging around because the team will not be in pads next week due to a limit on padded practices that is part of the new collective bargaining unit.

McCarthy said Woodson took part in a limited amount of work in pads, but that he was glad to get him on the field and practicing with the team.

Woodson has practiced twice this week and McCarthy said he was limited both days. That would seem to indicate he’s preparing for the following week and not this week.

“It was important, we’re obviously on a rep count for the number of padded practices per season, so it was important to get out there today in pads,” he said. “It’s something we also talked to Clay about, but it just didn’t work out as far as the rehab program he’s on. But (Woodson) was very limited.”

McCarthy’s desire to get both on the field in pads Thursday because there won’t be a padded practice next week seems to indicate he is anticipating both making their return against the Chicago Bears. That’s a logical assumption anyway given the game will probably decide who wins the NFC North.

The Packers are a completely different team with both Woodson and Matthews on the field.  If both guys can get back and contribute as they head into the playoffs, they’ll be in good shape.