Category Archives: Clay Matthews Jersey

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The most important offseason of Clay Matthews’ career began with knee surgery.

A source told ESPN that the Green Bay Packers linebacker underwent a procedure that was described as “a cleanup” last week shortly after the season ended.

Matthews, the Packers’ career sacks leader with 80, missed two games last season, but neither was because of a knee injury. In 14 games, he recorded 7.5 sacks — his highest total since 2014.

The 31-year-old former Pro Bowler is entering a critical offseason. He’s scheduled to make $11.4 million in salary and bonuses in the final season of his five-year, $66 million contract that still has him as one of the highest-paid linebackers in the league. The Packers could ask Matthews to restructure his deal this offseason.

Matthews’ status with the team will be one of the first decisions for new general manager Brian Gutekunst.

Matthews, who missed one game last season because of a groin injury and another because of a hamstring injury, has not recorded a double-digit sack season since he had 11 in 2014.

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Quarterback Cam Newton on Wednesday was feeling boastful about the way the Carolina Panthers outsmarted Green Bay and linebacker Clay Matthews on their first touchdown of Sunday’s victory against the Packers.

Video of the play, a 7-yard touchdown pass to rookie running back Christian McCaffrey, went viral.

The audio first picked up Matthews shouting to his defense to “watch that wheel route; it’s that wheel rout” when he thought he recognized what play was coming off the formation.

Then Newton, with a big smile knowing McCaffrey wasn’t running a wheel route, could be heard saying, “You’ve been watching film, huh? That’s cool. Watch this.”

Instead of a wheel route, McCaffrey came out of the backfield and went over the middle on a break-in route, untouched for the touchdown catch.

“I’m mad they didn’t see me and C-Mac’s reaction to when he said that,” Newton said of the smirk they exchanged. “It was funny. You could hear it clear as day, ‘Watch the wheel route, watch the wheel route.’

“Then there was, like, a pause, and the referee was right there, and I’m looking at C-Mac, C-Mac is looking back up at me, and we’re like, ‘Yeah, it’s the wheel route.”’

Newton said he was too deep in the end zone celebrating to see Matthews’ reaction to the touchdown.

“You can guarantee one thing about it, we’ll have a new signals meeting a couple times this week,” said Newton, referring to this Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay in which a victory would give the Panthers (10-4) a playoff berth. “We don’t want the Buccaneers to get any ideas.”

Not that the Panthers wouldn’t have scored had McCaffrey run the wheel route, a pattern in which a back runs a quick out pattern and then turns up field.

“There were a couple things we could’ve done on that,” McCaffrey said. “Cam did a good job getting me the ball, and I was pretty much wide open from there. The wheel might’ve been open, too.”

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The Green Bay Packers lost Clay Matthews early and Kenny Clark late in Sunday’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens, and the latter injury, which appeared to be serious, did not sit well with members of the defense.

Clark, the Packers’ first-round pick in 2016, had to be carted off the field with an ankle injury that occurred while he was engaged with Ravens center Ryan Jensen.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix said Clark was down on two knees and Jensen hit him repeatedly. The injury occurred during the fourth quarter of the Packers’ 23-0 loss at Lambeau Field.

“No. 66, I don’t even know his name, but he’s trash,” Clinton-Dix said of Jensen. “He’s a bad player. He doesn’t play fair. This is a game that we all love to play and love to enjoy, and you never want to see a guy get hurt when you’re playing overaggressive and doing things that you shouldn’t be doing. It’s uncalled for.

“[No.] 66, I don’t like him. He needs to tighten up on his play. Play ball. If you can’t whup him regularly, don’t cheap shot him. That’s what that guy’s been doing all year. I’ve been watching film of 66, and he’s a dirty player. I would love to have him on my team if he was like that, but at the end of the day, you can’t play like that and want to be a great in this league. It’s uncalled for.”

Clark was not available for comment after the game, and Packers coach Mike McCarthy had no update on his injured players.

“It was a play that a lot of us Packer players didn’t really like too much,” cornerback Davon House said.

Matthews sustained a groin injury in the first quarter, shortly after he ended the second-longest sack drought of his career. He dumped Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco to force a punt on Baltimore’s first possession.

Matthews played the next series and then was examined on the sideline by the Packers’ medical staff. He returned for one more snap but limped off. He was then taken to the locker room early in the second quarter, then ruled out for the rest of the game.

Matthews had 2 1/2 sacks after four games, but then went the next five games without a sack until Sunday.

“It’s huge, man, especially the way Kenny got hurt,” House said of losing Clark and Matthews. “Guy’s a young guy, and for him to get hurt the way he got hurt sucks. Hopefully he’s all right, hopefully Clay’s all right too. They’re our big dogs. You need them. They do a great job rushing the [passer], collapsing the pocket for us. Makes our job a lot easier on the back end when they’re playing healthy and they’re doing what they’re doing.”

The Packers’ defense was already playing without two starters: cornerback Kevin King (shoulder) and safety Morgan Burnett (groin).

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There’s quarterback Aaron Rodgers plus receiver Jordy Nelson and right tackle Bryan Bulaga on offense. There’s safety Morgan Burnett and linebacker Clay Matthews on defense, plus kicker Mason Crosby.

Look around the Green Bay Packers’ locker room, and those are the only six players who remain from the franchise’s last Super Bowl team.

All of them no doubt yearn for a second Super Bowl, but two of them have to know their time is running shorter than the others. It isn’t Crosby or Rodgers, even though they’re the oldest among those players, at age 33. Kickers and quarterbacks can play until 40 — or beyond.

It isn’t Bulaga or Burnett; they’re both only 28.

It’s Matthews, 31, and Nelson, 32.

Both have contracts that expire after next season, and both play positions predicated on speed and athleticism, two things that can decline quickly. Both no doubt took it hard when Rodgers went on injured reserve last month because of his broken collarbone, knowing deep down that another year might pass without a return trip to the big game, even if the competitors in them won’t admit it.

“Is it going to be tough sledding this year?” Matthews said in an interview this past week. “Absolutely, but hopefully we can weather the storm until Aaron gets back. I don’t know. You just hope you get hot at the right time, and we’ve done that before.”

“I don’t know if it’s dwindling,” Matthews said of his chance to get another Super Bowl title. “But if you have the nucleus we have — championship teams usually have a great defense and a star quarterback. We’ve got the star quarterback, and we’ve shown flashes on defense. We’re a couple of plays away. … We ran into Atlanta last year in the NFC title game, and that was a buzz saw. I don’t know if we’re losing opportunities. Those opportunities are there. It’s just a matter of capitalizing. Unfortunately, we haven’t.”

Here’s a look at how Nelson and Matthews view their chances to get back to the Super Bowl:

Clay Matthews

Matthews was 24 years old and in his second NFL season when the Packers won Super Bowl XLV. A year earlier, he was a first-round pick and became the first Packers player since 1978 to make the Pro Bowl as a rookie. In the Super Bowl season of 2010, he was the runner-up to Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu for the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award.

The son of Clay Matthews Jr. and the nephew of Bruce Matthews, each of whom played 19 seasons in the NFL, Matthews surely figured that was just the beginning.

“Well, I think you’re a little naïve in thinking that, but especially following up the next year going 15-1, you’re like, ‘We’ve got something cooking here,’” said Matthews, who made one of the defining plays of Super Bowl XLV when he forced a fumble of Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall in the fourth quarter.

“We win that whole thing, and you’re going, ‘That’s pretty cool.’ Then ’11 comes along, and you’re 15-1, and you’re thinking, ‘We’re going to do this again,’ but you lose [in the playoffs] and you’re like, ‘OK, let’s refocus,’” Matthews said.

“In 2012, we got a second shot at San Francisco after playing them in Week 1, but we ran into a little bit of a buzz saw with Colin Kaepernick. Then, in 2013, Aaron gets hurt with the first [broken] collarbone, but we still get in [the playoffs] and lost at home, but I had just re-broken my thumb [and did not play]. In 2014, you’re right there again in Seattle [losing the NFC title game in overtime], those type of losses, and so on and so on.”

Matthews is in the fourth season of a five-year, $66 million contract extension. The Packers’ career sack leader — a mark he set earlier this year — hasn’t had a double-digit sack season since 2014. He has battled injuries but said before this season that if he can stay healthy for 16 games, he knows he can be as productive as ever. He has played 82 percent of the defensive snaps so far this season but has only 2.5 sacks.

“I’ll say this — and Clay may get mad that I say this about him — but Clay Matthews appreciates and participates with so much more energy in the practice environment,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said in an interview this past week. “I see that over and over in this league that older players practice so much more and harder and are more giving of themselves to young players. The way Clay goes about his business today is night and day different than it was six years ago.”

Next season, Matthews would make $11.4 million if he’s on the roster. He is looking beyond that.

“Check the genealogy,” he said, offering a reminder of how long his dad and uncle played. “I don’t know how long I’m going to play. But I feel like I’m very real with myself from where I felt like I was going to be drafted to what I feel like I can accomplish, and I still feel really good. I feel like I can contribute a lot. I don’t think I’ve fallen off or lost a step. I’d love to be here for many more years. You accomplish what you can, and we’ll see where we’re at after next year.”

Jordy Nelson

Nelson was 25 and in his third NFL season when the Packers won the Super Bowl. It wasn’t until the next season that he became a 1,000-yard receiver and Rodgers’ No. 1 target.

Now, Nelson has three more reasons to get back to a Super Bowl: his kids. His son Royal was a year old the first time. Since then, Nelson and his wife, Emily, have adopted another son, Brooks, 2, and an infant daughter, Adda.

“Once you taste it, you want it again,” Nelson said in an interview this past week. “You want to experience it. Things have changed in my life that I want my kids to experience. My oldest turned a year the week of the Super Bowl. There’s pictures and stuff, but he doesn’t know what was going on. Now he’d be able to enjoy it.”

Nelson recalled the moments immediately after the 31-25 victory being a blur.

“I remember being on the field, and I was getting ushered off to go do the media, but I was like, ‘I need to stay here for a second,’” he said. “So I stopped and stood there with my wife and my son and took it all in. I have absolutely no idea what went on in the locker room after the game because I had to go to the media room. An hour later, I finally got in the locker room, and everyone was gone.

“I think you’d appreciate it more [the second time].”

Nelson has one more season left on his contract — he’s due to make $10.25 million — but the Packers are going to have to pay top money to another receiver, Davante Adams, who is scheduled to be a free agent after this season. Either way, Nelson wants to keep playing.

“I plan on playing two to four more years, so I think I’ve got two to four more chances,” he said. “I mean, that’s how we feel. Even if you look back to a few years ago, when Aaron broke his collarbone, once he came back and got into the playoffs, we felt like we had a chance. It’s the same thing now. You’ve just got to get in. You never know what could happen.”

From McCarthy’s vantage point, Nelson is doing more than ever to try to make it happen.

“Jordy speaks up in meetings all the time now,” McCarthy said. “Jordy speaks up on the sideline during the games — I’ve got to keep him off the officials sometimes — but he would’ve never done that eight years ago.”

That’s why Nelson uses the word “when,” rather than “if,” when he talks about the Packers getting back to the Super Bowl.

“I don’t want to say it will be sweeter because I think it downplays the one you got,” Nelson said. “But knowing where you’re at in your career, there’s certain things you would do to enjoy it. If it’s the week of the Super Bowl, with the family would be more enjoyable for me because all the kids would be there postgame and enjoying that.

“And honestly, all the perks that come with winning the Super Bowl, if it’s the TV shows or different things — we had kind of an awkward one because we had the lockout, and we didn’t really see each other until August. It will all be different.”