Green Bay Packers star Clay Matthews blasted the NFL on Sunday after receiving a controversial roughing the quarterback penalty in Sunday’s game, saying the league is “getting soft.”
Matthews made a tackle on Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith late in the third quarter of the Packers’ 31-17 loss. Matthews appeared to have made a common football play, wrapping Smith around the torso and tackling him to the ground for a sack. However, the linebacker was penalized for landing on Smith with his body weight.
Matthews, who received a similar penalty for tackling Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback Kirk Cousins in last week’s tie, sounded off about the controversial call when asked about it after the game.
“Unfortunately this league's going in a direction I think a lot of people don't like. I think they're getting soft,” he told the media, according to the Green Bay Press Gazette. “The only thing hard about this league is the fines they levy down on guys like me who play the game hard.”
While social media users had a meltdown, the NFL Football Operations defended the call in a tweet: “This is a foul for roughing the passer - the defender lands ‘with all or most of the defender’s weight’ on the passer. Rule 12, Section 2, Article 9(b).”
The rule stems from a controversial play last season where Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone from a play where he was driven to the ground. Players may not fall on quarterbacks with all or most of their body weight.
“Obviously when you're tackling a guy from the front you're gonna land on him,” Matthews said. “I understand the spirit of the rule, I said that weeks prior. But when you have a hit like that, that's a football play.”
The six-time Pro Bowl defender said he even went to Smith and asked him what he could have done differently. He didn’t elaborate further.
Referee Craig Wrolstad, who threw the flag on Matthews, told reporters after the game that Matthews could have done more to avoid the penalty.
"Unfortunately this league's going in a direction I think a lot of people don't like. I think they're getting soft."
“If you've got a shoulder into him and then landed on him with most of his body weight off him or released him when he went down, then he would have been OK,” Wrolstad said, according to ESPN. “But in my judgement, I ruled that he landed on him with most or all of his body weight there.”
Matthews is the first defensive player since 2001 to be called for roughing the passer in each of the first three games this season, the Green Bay Press Gazette reported, citing ESPN Stats & Information.