Clay Matthews said he thinks the NFL is "getting soft" after being flagged for his third roughing-the-passer penalty this season.
Packers veteran linebacker Clay Matthews told reporters he was disappointed after being called for his third roughing the passer penalty of the season on Sunday against the Redskins.
Late in the third quarter, Matthews sacked Washington quarterback Alex Smith and brought him down for what looked like a textbook tackle, but as he and Smith hit the ground, their helmets collided and Matthews drew a flag.
NFL Football Operations posted a tweet with video of the play, explaining that Matthews violated Rule 12, Section 2, Article 9(b), which prevents a defender from landing "with all or most [their] weight" on a passer.
A first-time offense for roughing the passer amounts to a $20,054 fine, according to NFL Operations' site. A second offense docks a player $40,110.
Matthews has not shied from sharing his frustration with the rule before. Earlier this season against the Bears, he was called for a penalty that nearly cost Green Bay a 24-23 win. Last week, he was flagged on a play that might have clinched a win for the Packers during their 29-29 tie against the Vikings.
Matthews called his latest foul unfortunate, reiterating that he doesn't agree with the call. He went as far as to say that the league is "getting soft."
"When you have a hit like that, that's a football play...Unfortunately this league's going in a direction a lot of people don't like. They're getting soft"— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) September 23, 2018
Clay Matthews sounds off on questionable roughing the passer call against the Redskins
(via @JosinaAnderson, @espn) pic.twitter.com/IggDw96Z6p
"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've said that in weeks prior. But when you have a hit like that, that's a football play."
Matthews said he approached Smith postgame to ask him what he could do differently. He said Smith suggested defenders should start attacking the ball rather than ball carriers, but Matthews appeared miffed trying to figure out how to change his approach.
"I really don't know," Matthews said. "Unfortunately, I think this league is going in a direction that I think a lot of people don't like. I think they're getting soft. The only thing hard about this league is the fines that they levy down on guys like me who play the game hard. I don't know. I'm gonna keep playing hard."