Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews is 3-for-3 this season, earning a roughing-the-passer penalty in each of the first three games.
Each of the infractions against Matthews in the past two weeks have drawn widespread criticism, even as the NFL attempts to enforce its new role to protect quarterbacks.
Matthews critiqued the league’s enforcement of the rules, telling the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that “the NFL can’t seem to get out of its own way.”
Attempting to get clarity on the rule to prevent a repeat of the violations, Matthews enlisted the help of his employer — Packers president and CEO Mark Murphy, who also happens to be a member of the NFL Competition Committee.
Matthews told the newspaper that the advice from Murphy was to maintain the status quo. Translation: “Not to change a thing” regarding his style of play, according to Matthews.
“I think it was more so just continue to play in the way in which I have,” Matthews said.
Matthews was penalized in Green Bay’s 31-17 loss at Washington in what appeared to be a textbook tackle. However, the league announced via Twitter that Matthews was flagged because he landed on Washington quarterback Alex Smith “with all or most of the defender’s weight.”
Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy was irate on the sidelines, having to be held back a couple of times by his assistant coaches from charging at the referees.
Former NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino said on the FOX broadcast that he did not agree with the call.
“I don’t like that as a foul. I really don’t,” Blandino said.
In Week 2, Matthews was punished for lifting Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins and driving him to the ground.
In the face of mounting criticism, the competition committee released a statement Thursday in which it said there will be no changes to the rule that aims at preventing players from driving a quarterback to the ground excessively or landing on a quarterback with their full body weight.
“In reiterating its position on quarterback protection, the committee determined there would be no changes to the point of emphasis approved this spring or to the rule, of which the body weight provision has been in place since 1995,” NFL vice president of football operations Troy Vincent said in the statement, which he said came after the committee reviewed video of recent roughing the passer fouls.
“To ensure consistency in officiating the rule, the committee clarified techniques that constitute a foul.”
A six-time Pro Bowl selection who racked up 80 sacks over his first nine seasons with Green Bay, Matthews predicted that current enforcement of the rule will turn the game into a flag-fest.
“If they continue to call it like that,” Matthews said, “I think there’s going to be more penalties, players are obviously going to be upset, coaches are going to continue to not know how to coach it and fans will continue to be upset by the fact that the NFL can’t seem to get out of its own way.”