Across 11 NFL seasons of flowing locks and game-changing sacks, Clay Matthews earned six Pro Bowl trips and for a time was regarded as one of the game's best pass rushers.
Having last played in 2019, Matthews has never officially retired, but on Tuesday – during a promotional tour for Tide detergent – washed away any thoughts of a comeback as he let it be known he has called it a career.
"My playing days are over," Matthews told Packers Wire.
Matthews played 11 seasons, 10 of them for the Green Bay Packers and his last for his hometown Los Angeles Rams. A member of the Packers' 2010 Super Bowl-championship squad, Matthews was a one-time All-Pro who finished his career with 91.5 sacks, 519 tackles, 200 QB hits and 17 forced fumbles.
2018 was Matthews' last season with the Packers, as he signed a two-year deal with the Rams. Though he was certainly past his prime seasons, Matthews still provided some pop off the edge and posted eight sacks in 13 games during 2019. However, the Rams cut him loose after one year.
"I was shocked, to be honest," Matthews said. "I thought I had a very solid year. I broke my jaw and missed three games, but I came back as if I didn't miss any time and felt good."
Matthews fielded offers for the 2020 season, but having moved back to his native Southern California and with the COVID-19 pandemic in full force, the right fit never materialized.
"I had a few other offers after for the 2020 season, but we had just moved to L.A., and we had just had our third child, and it was the middle of COVID, so there were a lot of unknowns," he said. "Ultimately, there wasn't a situation out there that made me want to relocate the family again. I wanted to focus on the next chapter, which is being a dad and being home a lot more."
The son of Browns all-time great linebacker Clay Matthews and the nephew of Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews, William Clay Matthews III was a standout at USC before the Packers took him 26th overall in the 2009 NFL Draft. From the start, he was a standout contributor for the Pack, posting 10 sacks in a Pro Bowl rookie campaign. It was the first of four double-digit sack seasons for Matthews in his career.
Matthews stands as the Packers' official career leader in sacks (sacks became an official stat in 1982) with 83.5.
There seemed to be a chance Matthews could re-sign with the Packers in 2020 as Joe Barry, who had coached Matthews in L.A., had been hired as Green Bay's defensive coordinator. It didn't come to fruition, though, and Matthews, 36, is content with how it all played out.
"He had reached out to me," Matthews said, via ESPN. "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."