GREEN BAY, Wis. — Clay Matthews always thought he would play his entire career with the Green Bay Packers. Even when he left after 10 years to play one season with the Los Angeles Rams, he thought there was a chance he would still finish his career where it started.
But Matthews, the Packers’ all-time sack leader, says he’s now at peace with the entirety of his career.
Matthews said after the 2018 season the Packers told him he would still be in their plans, even though his production had waned. However, once they signed pass-rushers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith in free agency, he knew it was over. Shortly after, he said he received a call from Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst informing him that they were moving on.
“I would have loved to finish my career there,” Matthews said Monday as part of a promotional tour for Tide detergent. “Based on my discussions after that 2018 season, I thought we were going to continue moving forward. But yeah the manner in which it did kinda caught me by surprise. Ultimately it is what it is. I had fun in my year in L.A. It was a blast getting to go home and play with some incredible players.”
He wasn’t initially done with football after his one season with the Rams (2019). He bounced back from 3.5 sacks in his final season with the Packers with 8.0 sacks in 13 games with the Rams. After sitting out the COVID year in 2020, he thought there was the chance to return to Green Bay because his position coach with the Rams, Joe Barry, had just been hired as the Packers’ defensive coordinator.
“He had reached out to me,” Matthews said. “He knew that I could still play and I think he knew if he had me, he could find a way to use me within the scheme. But nothing ever manifested, so I think ultimately there might have been powers above that didn’t want that to happen. But yeah, there was a brief glimmer of hope of coming back. That didn’t happen, but it’s all good. But I’m at peace with my career.”
Matthews, a Packers first-round pick in 2009 and a key member of their 2010 Super Bowl team, said it’s not a coincidence that he’s wearing a Packers jersey in the Tide ad in which he tries to convince people that not washing a jersey has nothing to do with whether a team wins or loses.
“Everyone knows me from my time in Green Bay,” said Matthews, who had 83.5 of his 91.5 career sacks with the Packers. “The 10 years I played with the Packers were a lot more than the one year I played with the Rams.”