Packers' Clay Matthews on penalties: NFL 'can't seem to get out of its own way'

Ryan Wood
Packers News
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Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews (52) during practice at Clarke Hinkle Field on Wednesday, September 26, 2018 in Ashwaubenon, Wis.

GREEN BAY - After his third roughing-the-passer penalty in as many weeks, Green Bay Packers pass rusher Clay Matthews didn’t have to go far to find clarification from the NFL’s competition committee.

Matthews said he had a conversation this week with Packers president/CEO Mark Murphy, a member of the committee that approved putting an emphasis on roughing penalties, especially regarding defenders landing with all or most of their body weight on the quarterback. Matthews said Murphy’s message echoed his coaches', that the veteran is “not to change a thing” with how he plays.

“I think it was more so just continue to play in the way in which I have,” Matthews said.

That message seems contradictory to a statement the competition committee released Thursday.

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After convening for a conference call, the committee doubled down on its desire to protect quarterbacks with a continued emphasis on roughing-the-passer penalties. As part of a 129-word statement, the committee confirmed it discussed enforcement of roughing-the-passer rules with a specific emphasis of body weight by a defender.

“In reiterating its position on quarterback protection,” the statement read, “the committee determined there would be no changes to the point of emphasis approved this spring or to the rule, of which the body weight provision has been in place since 1995.”

Green Bay has become the epicenter for controversy after Matthews was called for three roughing penalties in the first three weeks. The last two were highly questionable, including a hit on Minnesota Viking quarterback Kirk Cousins that erased a game-clinching interception.

The NFL released the teaching video it sent teams highlighting legal and illegal hits on the quarterback. One of the illegal hits included Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr’s collision with Aaron Rodgers last season, which broke the Packers quarterback’s collarbone. Among the legal plays were former Packers linebacker Ahmad Thomas’ hit on Oakland's EJ Manuel during the preseason.

“Video feedback will continue to be provided throughout the season to coaches, players and officials illustrating clear examples of permissible and impermissible contact on the quarterback,” the statement said.

Matthews said Thursday he noticed his two hits were “conveniently left out of the teaching video" He also noticed the only legal hits shown were edge rushes. The video did not show a single, legal rush from the interior.

Both of Matthews’ hits were interior rushes.

"Maybe,” Matthews said, “they can make room and put one more guy on the competition committee. Me."

Matthews, who said he was not fined for his hit on Washington quarterback Alex Smith, is still hoping the league changes how it calls roughing penalties. If not, Matthews said “the field is just going to be littered with flags trying to protect the quarterback, trying to protect business.”

“If they continue to call it like that,” Matthews said, “I think there’s going to be more penalties, players are obviously going to be upset, coaches are going to continue to not know how to coach it and fans will continue to be upset by the fact that the NFL can’t seem to get out of its own way.”

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