Clay Matthews says he’s ‘awesome player’ not ‘dirty’

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Clay Matthews didn’t want to look back on the San Francisco 49ers or on Jim Harbaugh’s comments that criticized the Green Bay Packers star outside linebacker. However, Matthews did offer one quick response to Harbaugh and the 49ers.

“I’m an awesome player, not a dirty player,” Matthews said Thursday in the locker room.

The day after San Francisco beat the Packers in Week 1, Harbaugh berated Matthews for hitting Colin Kaepernick after the whistle and for the way he handled the scuffle that ensued.

“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 added that Matthews threw “two punches to Joe (Staley’s) head; well, one punch and one open slap.”

Matthews had jumped at a fully horizontal angle and tackled Kaepernick out of bounds, leading to the 49ers immediately stepping in to defend their quarterback. Matthews was called for a personal foul for the hit on Kaepernick, but Staley was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct in the aftermath of the play.

“You talk about launching,” Harbaugh said Monday, according to reports in San Francisco. “You talk about a clothesline to the neck area when our quarterback is six, seven feet out of bounds.

“We’re not going to back down and just get pushed around after the whistle. When it’s not being called after the first offense, you have to have a plan, and for us, it’s not to go pushing and throwing punches. It’s to lock up and protect yourself. Joe did that as well as you could do it.”

Matthews would not comment Thursday whether he was fined — or expected to be fined — by the NFL.

“I’m not really going to discuss all that right now,” he said.

If Matthews is fined, the NFL will confirm it Friday.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy addressed Harbaugh’s comments with the team in their Monday meeting.

“Clay Matthews is not a dirty player, by no means,” McCarthy said Monday. “As always, we’ll stay above it.”

McCarthy didn’t condone the play by Matthews. If Matthews had held up and not hit Kaepernick, it would have been fourth down. Instead, it led to offsetting penalties — which the officials then incorrectly assessed by allowing the 49ers to repeat third down.

“I thought it was a bad decision by Clay,” McCarthy said Monday. “I think he was overzealous. I know he left his feet and, you know, playing hard. I think it’s football. I think much is blown out of proportion. Clay played very well in the game. That was probably one of his couple of bad plays.”

Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers had Matthews’ back, as well.

“I think Clay is an aggressive player that’s going to play with a lot of emotion,” Capers said Monday. “It was unfortunate that the sideline play, I think he just misjudged where he was really. We have to make sure that doesn’t happen, but I like the aggressiveness Clay plays with.

“He plays with his heart and a lot of emotion. I’ve been here with Clay now — this is five years, and I certainly don’t believe that (he’s a dirty player).”

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