GREEN BAY, Wis. – Former Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews was looking for just the right opportunity to continue his playing career in 2020. He didn’t get it. Turns out, that was OK, as Matthews learned while enjoying dinner and a cold one.
“I thought it was pretty telling when the games came on and I enjoyed having a beer and smoking some fatty meats on Sunday as opposed to feeling that anxiety of gameday,” Matthews said in a Zoom interview as part of a promotion with Tide laundry detergent. “I thought that was pretty telling. I do feel like I could’ve played a few more years and, who knows where I would’ve ended up, but I’m OK with it now. I’ve fallen into this next chapter of my life, which is being a dad and helping my kids out and being at home. Everything’s good. Everything’s great.”
Matthews had a great career with the Packers. A first-round pick in 2009, he recorded 83.5 sacks and was selected to six Pro Bowls in 10 years with the team.
Matthews misses playing but, like most retired players, he misses the camaraderie of the locker room most of all.
“You don’t get that anymore when you’re talking to your kids,” Matthews said. “The inappropriate jokes, you can throw political correctness aside and just have fun because you’re all in this for a common goal. Fortunately, I still have good relationships with a number of guys still on that team as well as the Rams [for whom he finished his career in 2019]. Whether it’s through text or Instagram or whatnot, just shooting them something quick to keep that relationship going and still feeling like you’re a part of it. That’s the thing that you miss the most. Obviously, the success and the gameday and this and that, but just that everyday interaction, messing with the boys, is something that you can’t replicate when you’re done playing.”
Asked about his favorite memory in his decade with the team, Matthews started with life in Green Bay. A few months ago, he and his wife went down a “rabbit hole” of memories, including pizza at Glass Nickel and Rustique and fun with the kids – who are now 3, 5 and 7 – at Pamperin Park.
“Once the kids are old enough to recognize what I was able to do and the accomplishments we had, then probably bringing them through Lambeau will be fun to them, taking them on the field,” Matthews said. “They’ll get to see Titletown again, I’m sure, will remind them of going down the (tubing) hill and all that. You play for so long, you get some fond memories. Ultimately, just the time there – especially with it being an amazing organization – just how fortunate and lucky I was to have ended up there with a quarterback like Aaron [Rodgers].”
On the field, two memories stand out. One is what everybody recalls. Between the third and fourth quarters of Super Bowl XLV against the Steelers, the late outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene told Matthews, “It is time” to step up and make a play in the wake of Charles Woodson’s broken collarbone. On the first play of the quarter, Matthews forced a fumble. The Packers recovered and Rodgers threw a touchdown pass to make it 28-17.
“For the very next play to have an inkling of what was going to happen, direct a few people around in front of me and make a big play that we went down and scored another touchdown at a time when they were marching and they had some momentum, yeah, it kind of gives you some chills,” Matthews said. “Watching that, seeing my late coach, young me in a game that was over my head as far as the implications of what it meant for not only me and the team but for the city of Green Bay and everybody else who’s a fan, yeah, that is a play that I enjoy when fans bring up.
The other came during his rookie season.
“My favorite play is probably the Monday night game – it was Brett Favre and Rodgers up at the Metrodome in 2009,” Matthews recalled. “We lost but I stripped Adrian Peterson and ran it back 42 yards for a touchdown and just chucked the ball in the stands. That one was truly memorable for me because I was just trying to keep my head above water at the time. I wasn’t starting at the time but, naturally, you’re coming into the NFL and you’re just trying not to screw up any plays. To make a play like that that burst me onto the scene, ultimately, sticks out because it embodied where I was going in my career.”
As part of the Tide promotion, which he details on his Instagram page, Matthews is telling fans that it’s OK to wash that lucky jersey.
“After being in a locker room for so many games, I understand how dirty and smelly these things can get,” he said.
It’s important to smell good. And look good. Matthews, like most players, put great importance in looking good on gamedays. To that end, he’s not impressed with rookie linebacker Quay Walker.
“The new linebacker, No. 7, he looks like a rookie,” Matthews said. “I go, ‘Who is that? He looks like a rookie. His spat job, it looks like he’s a rookie. He’s got the single white tape so he doesn’t get fined by the league. No real swag. But he’s playing well, I’ll give him that. Ultimately, you’ve got to look good. You’ve got to have the towel hanging just right, the wrist tape, if you spat your ankles. When it gets cold out there in Green Bay, you rub those arms down with Vasoline. There’s a science to it.”