Clay Matthews fined $15,000 for hit on Colin Kaepernick

GREEN BAY, Wis. — The price for hitting an NFL quarterback late is $15,000. That’s what Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews found out Friday.

In the second quarter of the Packers’ Week 1 matchup with the San Francisco 49ers, Colin Kaepernick scrambled and stepped out of bounds when Matthews leaped at him at a fully horizontal angle and tackled him after the whistle.

The technical reason that Matthews was fined, according to an NFL spokesperson, was for “striking an opponent late.”

Matthews was not fined for anything that went on in the post-play scuffle. Matthews and 49ers offensive tackle Joe Staley fought briefly, with Staley being flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.

San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh thought Matthews threw “two punches to Joe’s head; well, one punch and one open slap.” Harbaugh criticized Matthews that both shots weren’t punches.

“If you’re going to go to the face, come with some knuckles, not an open slap,” Harbaugh told reporters Monday in San Francisco. “That young man (Matthews) works very hard on being a tough guy. He’ll have some repairing to do to his image after the slap.”

Harbaugh described Matthews’ hit on Kaepernick as “launching,” adding, “you talk about a clothesline to the neck area when our quarterback is six, seven feet out of bounds.”

Matthews defended himself Thursday.

“I’m an awesome player, not a dirty player,” Matthews said. 

Packers coach Mike McCarthy also thought that it was not a cheap shot on Kaepernick.

“Clay Matthews is not a dirty player, by no means,” McCarthy said Monday.

Whether he’s a dirty player, an awesome player or both, Matthews is a player with $15,000 less in his bank account.

Follow Paul Imig on Twitter