Clay Matthews is ready to make the leap.
Entering his fifth season in Titletown, the long-locked linebacker has established himself as one of the most celebrated—and disruptive—forces on the defensive side of the ball in the NFL.
Yet, within the confines of the Green Bay locker room, the 27-year-old Los Angeles native, who inked a five-year, $65 million contract extension in April, conceded that he is also prepared to become the face of the team’s defense.
A defense which, ultimately, ended the 2012 campaign on a more than somber note on the heels of Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers hanging 45 points and 579 yards of total offense on the two-time NFC North champions in the divisional round of the playoffs on Jan. 12.
“Absolutely, I think so,” cited Matthews, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, on Monday in respect to assuming a more expanded leadership role this season on The Jim Rome Show. “I think it’s time I rise up and show these guys through example, and I think I’ve been doing that the last couple of years.”
In turn, Matthews, selected by the Packers in the first round (26th overall) in the 2009 NFL draft out of USC, acknowledged that while he is expecting to increase his level of performance atop the gridiron this season, he expects his colleagues—regardless of league tenure—to carry their weight each week as well.
“It’s time for these young guys to step up and fill that void,” continued Matthews, in reference to the departure of former team captain and veteran cornerback Charles Woodson, who was released by the organization in February following a seven-year run in Titletown, in his interview with Rome. “There’s no excuses as to who’s going to make the plays. I know that I’ll be called upon each and every game, but it’s time for the rookies and second and third-year players to continue to rise up.
“There’s no time for just veterans to make plays or playmakers to continue to make their plays. It’s now time for these young guys to make a name for themselves.”
Such is a formula in which Matthews, who has amassed 42.5 sacks in 58 career outings, notes must be adhered to if Green Bay is to move on from last season’s dismal culmination and reach its full potential in the months ahead.
“We have an outstanding offense, a great quarterback [Aaron Rodgers] who’s going to take us where we need to go,” cited Matthews on The Jim Rome Show. “But it’s about filling our end of the problem and taking care of that.”
Overall, though, Matthews, a 2010 First Team All-Pro selection, referenced that, through the first few days of training camp, he likes “where our defense is at right now…I’m looking forward to this defense and what we’re going to be able to do this year.”
Matthews and the Packers open their preseason slate on Friday, Aug. 9 when they play host to Larry Fitzgerald and the Arizona Cardinals at 8:00 p.m. CT.