Clay Matthews returns home to LA; signs with Rams

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GREEN BAY – Clay Matthews, the Packers’ all-time leader in sacks, is heading home to Los Angeles.

The six-time Pro Bowl linebacker announced he signed with the Rams on Tuesday evening. A native of Agoura Hills, Calif., Matthews will play in the same home stadium next season – Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum – as his alma mater, USC.

The face of the Packers’ defense for the better part of a decade, Matthews exits Green Bay at the top of the franchise’s sack list with 83½, and tied with Reggie White and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila with four 10-sack seasons.

“We want to thank Clay for all that he has contributed to the Packers over the past 10 seasons. As the franchise’s all-time sack leader and an integral part of Green Bay’s Super Bowl XLV championship, he will be remembered as one of the greatest players in the history of the organization,” General Manager Brian Gutekunst said. “Clay will always be a member of the Packers family. We wish him, his wife, Casey, and the rest of their family all the best moving forward.”

As the son of a 19-year NFL linebacker, Matthews arrived in Green Bay with high expectations in 2009. After drafting B.J. Raji ninth overall, former general manager Ted Thompson used the third-round pick the Packers acquired from trading Brett Favre to the New York Jets to move back into the first round and take Matthews 26th overall.

Matthews turned out to be a perfect fit for defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ 3-4 scheme. He set a franchise rookie record with 10 sacks in 2009, becoming the first Packers rookie since Hall of Fame receiver James Lofton in 1978 to be selected to the Pro Bowl.

Take a look at photos of Packers LB Clay Matthews from the 2018 season.

A year later, Matthews finished second to Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu for NFL Defensive Player of the Year after recording a career-high 13½ sacks. In the process, Matthews became the only Packer to record a double-digit sack total in each of his first NFL two seasons since sacks became an official stat in 1982.

Matthews, who had 11 sacks in 15 career playoff games, made one of the biggest plays of his career in Super Bowl XLV in forcing a fumble of Pittsburgh running back Rashard Mendenhall on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Taking over at the Green Bay 45, Aaron Rodgers engineered an eight-play, 55-yard touchdown drive to give the Packers a commanding two-score lead in the eventual 31-25 victory.

Midway through the 2014 season, Matthews agreed to move to inside linebacker to help solidify the Packers’ defense. In his debut against Chicago Bears on Nov. 9, Matthews racked up 11 tackles and a sack in a dominating 55-14 victory.

Matthews stayed inside for the next 1½ seasons, earning a second-team All-Pro selection in 2014 and back-to-back Pro Bowl appearances.

“Shoot, I don’t know if I was prepared for what I was getting into,” said Matthews in an interview with packers.com last season. “When you change from outside linebacker to inside linebacker it’s a different world. Dom (Capers) took care of me at the time as far as putting in a select play-calling list of blitzes and plays I was very comfortable with. … I think they found out if you put me in the middle and let me roam, then good things are going to happen.”

Matthews moved into sole possession of the franchise’s all-time sack record on Sept. 28, 2017, earning a strip sack of Chicago quarterback Mike Glennon on the Bears’ first offensive play.

Two plays later, Rodgers connected with Randall Cobb on a 2-yard touchdown. Matthews finished with three tackles and three quarterback hits in a 35-14 victory.

“That was pretty cool just for the fact of how often are you able to get a sack-forced fumble that you’re able to recover on the very first play on defense, which set up a 14-0 lead,” Matthews said. “At that point, we can kind of let the dogs loose. That’s what made it all the more meaningful, breaking the record and getting after them early.”

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