By GENARO C. ARMAS
AP Sports Writer
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) – Keep the head up. Be aware if the quarterback got rid of the ball. Wrap up.
Seems like a simple enough checklist for a defender to hit the quarterback.
A roughing-the-passer penalty on linebacker Clay Matthews against the Minnesota Vikings might have raised new questions with the Green Bay Packers.
The Packers talked about it this week ahead of their game Sunday against the Washington Redskins. The commotion over the call won’t change the way that coach Mike McCarthy teaches tackling.
“I know the way we’re going to approach the game. We know how we’re going to rush the passer. We know how we’re going to hit the quarterback,” McCarthy said, “and the way we’re teaching it is the way we’re going to do it.”
The call against Matthews negated an interception by Jaire Alexander late in regulation that could have preserved a win over the Vikings. Instead, Minnesota came back to tie, Green Bay missed a 52-yard field goal at the end of the regulation and the teams went scoreless in an overtime that ended in a 29-29 tie.
Matthews called it a “terrible call” after the game. Referee Tony Corrente said the call was made not made under the new helmet rule, but rather because Matthews “hit the quarterback, lifted him and drove him to the ground.”
Matthews hit Kirk Cousins in the torso, leading with his shoulder. It was a part of the play that happens in a split-second. The NFL is using it as a part of its teaching video this week to teams.
Asked if there was more clarity or confusion after the call, inside linebacker Blake Martinez said, “For the most part we have an understanding of the extreme of what they’re going to call.
“And now we just know that in any situation like that you just have to be cognizant of where you are, what you’re trying to do, and try your best to make sure that you’re implementing the things they want,” he said Thursday.
Linebacker Antonio Morrison took a simple approach.
“Man, really it’s just go out there and play and see what happens because you don’t know,” Morrison said. “It’s really just go out there and play ball how you know it, and see what they call because you don’t know what is and what isn’t.”
McCarthy said that he is confident in Matthews and the pass-rush unit, as well as the way that Packers go after quarterbacks. The Packers, he said, are not trying to skirt rules.
“I think these are things you work through and, frankly, you’d like to have seen this worked through in the preseason,” McCarthy said on Wednesday. “To think that we’re talking about it in the regular season and it potentially can affect the outcome of games, nobody wants that. I mean, nobody.”
Martinez said there might be situations when players might think too much during a game about the ramifications of hitting the quarterback.
“I think overall, going through it, it’s going to be more emphasis on keeping your head, being able to see if he threw the ball, being able to wrap up,” Martinez said. “If anything, grab him and just hold him still to make sure that if he still has the ball.”
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