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Massage, acupuncture, getting dressed on tap for Jordan Matthews in bid to return from broken thumb

Bills wide receiver Jordan Matthews was only allowed to ride an exercise bike and watch his teammates go through practice Monday, but he still strapped up his helmet and got dressed as if a surgeon hadn’t operated on his broken right thumb 14 days earlier.

After practice, Matthews made his way toward the JUGS machine and asked for passes to be sent in his direction. Wearing a glove on his left hand and a bandage over the incision site on his right hand, Matthews went through the mental repetitions of route running and then attempted to catch passes – first standing, then seated – using only his left hand.

Coach Sean McDermott said Matthews is now considered day-to-day instead of week-to-week and left open the possibility that the team’s No. 1 receiver could play Sunday against the Buccaneers, just three weeks after a collision with a helmet left his thumb broken.

“Just coming off the bye, he made a tremendous amount of progress,” McDermott said. “We just got to see at this point how he looks going into Wednesday, really.”

Matthews preempted questions about his game day status as reporters began to gather near his locker after practice.

“I really don’t know,” Matthews said aloud with a smile. “If you ask me when I’m going to be back, I can’t tell you.”

Could he really be back so soon? Six days before the game, Matthews said he has done work with tennis balls but hasn’t been allowed to catch a football yet.

The Bills could certainly use another playmaker, though. They didn't have a passing play longer than 12 yards after leading receiver Charles Clay suffered a knee injury in the first quarter of their Week Five loss to the Bengals, and they gained only 39 yards though the air in the second half – even after both of the Bengals' starting cornerbacks left the game due to injury.

Jordan Matthews sports a bandage on his right thumb Monday. (Nick Veronica/Buffalo News)

“I feel pretty good – got out of the cast, had a lot more range of motion than I anticipated,” Matthews said. “I think at this point, it’s really just about getting that strength back, and pain management also. At the same time, I want to play, I want to play as early as possible. The coaches and trainers want me to be smart, they’ve been taking really good care of me, so at this point I’m just conditioning, continuing to stay in shape, so when I do come back, I can help this team make the run that we’re trying to make.

“Day-to-day stuff really has gotten a lot easier,” Matthews added. “Even just going out and putting on my pads and everything, using your thumb to even put on clothes, when it’s pretty banged up, isn’t fun. But even just today I said, it’s feeling pretty good, I’m gonna go ahead, put on all my equipment, go out to practice as if it was a normal day because I’m really starting to try to do everything I usually do with my right hand so the transition to catching isn’t just astronomically different because I’ve been using it the whole time.”

In addition to exercises for strength training and range of motion, Matthews is getting both acupuncture and massage to try to return to action as soon as possible. But can the transition from getting dressed with two hands to playing in an NFL game really be that quick?

“Even when I saw the initial break, I thought we could put it back in place, I thought I was going to be able to play,” Matthews said.

“It’s day-to-day and it’s a conversation [that’s] ongoing. I still got to keep getting examined by our team doctors and the hand doctor that I’m going to go see. Everybody’s on board, really, with where I am right now. It’s something that some people say, ‘This might take a very long time.’ It’s not looking like that right now, and that’s the type of attitude we’re going into the week with.”

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