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 a season with the Los Angeles Rams, he thought there was a chance he would end his career where it started.
But Matthews, the Packers’ all-time sack leader, says he’s now at peace with his entire career.
Matthews said after the 2018 season, the Packers told him he would still be in their plans, even though his production had dwindled. 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 got a call from Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst telling him they were moving on.
“I would have loved to finish my career there,” Matthews said Monday as part of a promotional tour for Tide laundry detergent. “Based on my discussions after that 2018 season, I thought we were going to keep moving forward. But yeah, the way it surprised me a bit. In the end, that’s what it is. I had fun during my year in Los Angeles. It was great to come home and play with some amazing players.”
He wasn’t done with football after his only season with the Rams (2019). He rebounded from 3.5 sacks in his final season with the Packers with 8.0 sacks in 13 games for the Rams. After spending the year of COVID in 2020, he thought there was a 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 I could still play and I think he knew if he had me he could find a way to use me as part of the scheme. But nothing ever came to light so I think that ultimately there might have been powers above that didn’t want this to happen. But yes, there was a brief glimmer of hope to return. It didn’t happen, but I’m fine, but I’m at peace with my career.
Matthews, a 2009 Packers first-round pick and a key member of their 2010 Super Bowl team, said it was no coincidence he was 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 sacked 83.5 of his 91.5 career sacks with the Packers. “The 10 years I played with the Packers was so much more than the one year I played with the Rams.”