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Green Bay Packers Clay Matthews Shouldn’t Be Considered Dirty Player

September 9th, 2013 at 6:39 PM
By Sean Tehan

San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh has continued to boil the pot between his team and the Green Bay Packers on Monday, as Harbaugh said Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews “tries too hard to be a tough guy."

During the second quarter of the 49ers 34-28 win over the Packers, Matthews tackled 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick while he was going out of bounds, committing a personal foul. A scuffle broke out between both teams, as Matthews was later caught on camera pulling 49ers left tackle Joe Staley’s facemask during the fracas.

“He’ll have some repairing to do to his image after the slap,” Harbaugh said Monday. “If you’re going to go to the face, come with some knuckles, not an open slap.”

“I thought it was a bad decision by Clay,” Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said, referring to Matthews hit on Kaepernick. “It is football, as much as it is blown out of proportion, and Clay played very well throughout the game.”

Leading up to Sunday’s NFC showdown at Candlestick Park, Matthews said Green Bay’s defense would target Kaepernick throughout the game. Kaepernick and the 49ers offense rushed for 66 yards on 28 carries—eight months after Kaepernick embarrassed Green Bay’s defense in the divisional round of last year’s playoffs with 181 rushing yards.

McCarthy may not have agreed with Matthews' decision, but he has publicly defended his All-Pro defender. “I have no idea what his (Harbaugh’s) intent is”, McCarthy said. “Clay Matthews is not a dirty player by any means. I’ll address Harbaugh’s comments in the team meeting, and we’ll stay above it. It is pro football, there are a lot of things that could go on during the course of the game.”

Since entering the league in 2009, through the 2012 season, Matthews has been called for 13 penalties—averaging 3.1 penalties per season. Below is a chart of Matthews penalties from 2009-2012:

Defensive Offsides (8)
Roughing the Passer (3)
Facemask (1)
Holding (1)

As seen above, before Sunday, Matthews had NEVER been penalized for unnecessary roughness in his career. Matthews’ worst season (in penalties) was in 2011, as he was penalized four times (tied for 7th-most on the Packers).

The Packers were the most penalized team in 2009, and by 2011, they were one of the NFL’s least penalized. In 2011, the Packers averaged 4.65 penalties/game (lowest average in NFL), and accumulated roughly 35.82 penalty yards/game (2nd least).

By comparison, in 2011 (Harbaugh’s first season as San Francisco head coach), the 49ers averaged 6.78 penalties/game (9th highest average), and averaged 60.94 penalty yards/game (7th most).

Matthews had four penalties in 2011—the 49ers had 15 players who had at least four or more penalties in the same season. Former 49ers safety Dashon Goldson, a known “head-hunter” around the league, was penalized for unnecessary roughness on three different occasions during the season—doesn’t that sound “dirty” to you?

In 2012, Matthews improved, as he was tied for 19th among Packer players with three penalties (one roughing the passer call) the entire season. The 49ers, by comparison, had 20 players on their roster with at least three penalties during the season. Outside linebacker Aldon Smith and offensive tackle Anthony Davis were both penalized twice for unnecessary roughness—Goldson was penalized four times for unnecessary roughness.

If I’m in 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh’s shoes right now, I would shut up—NOW. The 49ers have had more “dirty” superstar players since he arrived from Stanford in 2011, while Matthews is historically one of the NFL’s least penalized players year-in and year-out. In Sunday’s game, the 49ers out-penalized the Packers, 11 to 5. If Harbaugh were to take a look at the hard evidence, the 49ers clearly have much “dirtier” players than Matthews.

Other News and Notes: McCarthy said the Packers won’t know of safety Morgan Burnett’s status until Wednesday. Burnett sat out of Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury…McCarthy said safeties Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings were “probably a step slower than they needed to be” in Sunday’s game, and “they have to play better”.

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Tags: 49ers, Clay Matthews, Colin Kaepernick, Football, Green Bay, Green Bay Packers, Jim Harbaugh, Mike McCarthy, NFL, San Francisco

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