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In wake of Clay Matthews’ controversial penalty, even Aaron Rodgers wants to see NFL fix roughing-the-passer calls

September 20, 2018

Linebacker Clay Matthews was called for a roughing-the-passer on this play late in the fourth quarter of Green Bay's 29-29 tie with Minnesota on Sunday at Lambeau Field.

GREEN BAY — Aaron Rodgers was adamant Wednesday. The officials were flat-out wrong on the call.

No, not Clay Matthews’ controversial roughing-the-passer penalty in last Sunday’s 29-29 tie between the Minnesota Vikings and Rodgers’ Green Bay Packers.

Rather, the Packers quarterback was referring to a roughing-the-passer penalty called against Minnesota’s Eric Kendricks earlier in the game — a call that benefited Rodgers and the Packers — as an equally egregious example of how the NFL’s attempts to protect quarterbacks like himself have run amok.

Oh, and they were wrong on that Matthews call, too.

“I think we enjoy the protection below the knee and above the shoulders, but I don’t know many quarterbacks who want those calls,” Rodgers said as the Packers shifted gears Wednesday to their upcoming game at Washington.

“The one on me, I don’t think that’s roughing the passer, either. There’s a goal to limit these hits, but they’re pretty obvious when you see them — you know, a guy picking somebody up and full weight on them. What do you say to Clay? His head is out of it. His hand is on the ground. That’s not roughing the passer. Same thing with Kendricks. What do you say to him on that?

“I didn’t get up off the ground thinking, ‘Where’s the penalty?’ I saw a late flag and couldn’t believe there was a penalty on the play.”

Rodgers said it’s “pretty typical” the NFL would double down on the call by coming out earlier this week and saying referee Tony Corrente was right, and that Matthews’ penalty — which wiped out what would have been a victory-clinching interception by Jaire Alexander with less than 2 minutes left in regulation — was correctly called. Matthews, immediately after the game, had predicted the league wouldn’t admit that Corrente blew the call.

“I think we all know it was an incorrect call. I think everybody — including Vikings fans — see it the same way,” Matthews said Wednesday. “The unfortunate thing is, we’re talking about games here. And I know it’s Week 2, but every week matters. You’d like to think if we force that interception, we win the game rather than giving them a chance to tie it up or have an opportunity to win. So that’s unfortunate. But we’ll see what that means moving forward as far as changing tactics.”

To hear Packers coach Mike McCarthy tell it, even with the NFL saying Matthews’ hit will be part of the officiating video distributed teams on Friday, his coaches won’t be changing anything about how they teach tackling.

“You can’t do anything about it after the fact. I mean, what are you going to do? Call the league up and say a bunch of bad words and make yourself feel good? That doesn’t work. Trust me, that’s been tried by a lot of people over the years,” McCarthy said. “The reality is, it’s about education, getting it right. But I’m just going to tell you this: We haven’t changed anything with the way we’re coaching our players.

“I’ve had conversations with all the people I need to have the conversations with. We’re confident in the way we’re teaching the fundamentals. I’m confident in Clay Matthews and our rush unit, the way we’re going to go about attacking the quarterback.”

Rodgers pointed out that, like the infamous “Fail Mary” game in Seattle in 2012, the call had an impact on the outcome of the game and could impact playoff seeding at year’s end. He called it “the butterfly effect,” pointing out that Vikings kicker Daniel Carlson wouldn’t have missed two overtime field-goal attempts and might still have a job had the penalty on Matthews not been called.

“I’m a traditionalist. I’ve watched the game and loved the game for a long time, and some of the rules I think help,” Rodgers said. “But some of the rules maybe are going the wrong direction. I know they’re trying to think about progress of the game and the safety and stuff but it’s still a collision sport and those, to me, are not penalties on Clay or on Kendricks.”

On the mend

After Sunday’s game, Rodgers said that not only was his injured left knee sore, but that he’d also been punched in the eye during a sack early in the game and bruised his sternum when he crash-landed face first on a 7-yard third-down scramble to pick up a first down. So how was he feeling when he woke up Monday morning?

“If you’ve seen Rocky III, you know that Mr. T, Clubber Lang, has a prediction before the fight: ‘Paaaaain,’” Rodgers said with a laugh. “That’s kind of what it felt like.”

Rodgers acknowledged his knee injury is something that he will have “to deal with for a while” and that his hope is to be able to play a little more like his usual self each week —although he knows that’s not guaranteed, either.

“Obviously, I’d love to be better than I was last week as far as health-wise but there’s some factors that are out of my control,” Rodgers said. “I know what I’m capable of depending on how that knee is. Obviously, it won’t be 100 percent so I’ll adjust accordingly on the field and try to get through.”

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