09/23 17:33 CDT Clay Matthews on latest roughing call: NFL is 'getting soft'
Clay Matthews on latest roughing call: NFL is 'getting soft'
By HOWARD FENDRICH
AP Pro Football Writer
LANDOVER, Md. (AP) --- Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews does not
understand why he was flagged --- yet again --- for roughing the passer, this
time while sacking Washington's Alex Smith on Sunday. Matthews think it's an
indication that the NFL is "getting soft."
Even Smith wasn't quite sure about the call that came late in the third quarter
of Washington's 31-17 victory. Nor did other players and coaches from both
teams. Matthews broke free into the backfield, grabbed Smith with both arms and
took down the QB in a seemingly straightforward manner.
"When you're tackling a guy from the front, you're going to land on him. I
understand the spirit of the rule. When you have a hit like that, that's a
football play. I even went up to Alex Smith after the game and asked him: What
do you think? What can I do differently?" Matthews said.
"That's a football play. I hit him from the front, got my head across, wrapped
up. I've never heard of anybody tackling somebody without any hands. When he
gives himself up as soon as you hit him, your body weight is going to go on
There are sure to be more questions and more debate around the NFL about what
constitutes a penalty on such plays.
Matthews immediately put his arms up and slapped himself in the helmet as the
flag was thrown. Packers coach Mike McCarthy threw down a play-calling sheet
and argued with two officials about the call, even chasing one along the
"I think Clay did exactly what he's supposed to do there," McCarthy said. "He
hit him with his shoulder. He was coming full speed off of a block. He braced
himself. So I was fine with what Clay did."
In Green Bay's 29-29 tie against the Minnesota Vikings last week, a potentially
win-sealing interception for the Packers was wiped out by a roughing call on
Matthews when he hit Kirk Cousins.
"Unfortunately, this league is going in a direction that a lot of people don't
like. I think they're getting soft. The only thing hard about this league is
the fines they levy down on guys like me that play the game hard," said
Matthews, who actually was not docked pay for that hit on Cousins. "Maybe now
pass rushers, guys getting after the quarterback, you'll just have to attack
Smith's take on the hit he took from Matthews?
"I'm glad I don't play defense. ... They can't hit us in the head and can't hit
us in the knees when we're in the pocket. It's tough. I felt like he was
playing football. He's played a long time. Hit me right in the strike zone,"
Smith said. "That's the new rule they put in, though, with these guys finishing
quarterbacks to the ground."
The rule preventing defenders from landing on the QB has been around since
1995, but the league's competition committee made it a point of emphasis this
year. More than 30 roughing-the-passer penalties were called in this season's
first two weeks.
"Every week," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said, "there seems to be another one
that's a little bit questionable."
With a heavy sigh, Matthews said: "Nine years, I've been doing it one way in
the NFL, successfully, and now it just seems as if that way doesn't work
anymore. And that's frustrating."
Not surprisingly, Packers teammates agreed with Matthews. Perhaps more
surprisingly, so did several members of the Redskins.
"Oh, my gosh. Look, I'm glad it was for us, but then when I looked at it, I was
like: What else do you want the man to do? Seriously, what else do you want the
man to do?" Redskins cornerback Josh Norman said. "When I saw it, it was not
malicious, ill intent. It was just a nice form tackle. ... I'm lost by it. I'm
pretty sure (Matthews) is frustrated and he has a point."
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