As it turns out, the pass rush-needy Patriots probably could’ve used him. Matthews wound up with 10 sacks, and a berth in the Pro Bowl. And he was drafted 26th, in a slot New England traded out of. Matthews says the Patriots didn’t show outward interest, but he and his family had New England on their radar.
For one, Matthews’ father Clay played for Bill Belichick from 1991-93 in Cleveland. For another, Matthews brought the same kind of versatility that Belichick’s always lauded his dad for.
“We kind of knew with my talent and where I was projected to be drafted and with their needs, I thought it might be a possibility I end up there,” Matthews said. “But hey, couldn’t be happier in Green Bay. … Another reason I thought I might end up, the simple fact that Belichick coached my father. It seemed like a perfect fit at the time.”
So now the Packers have the edge-rushing outside linebacker they needed for Dom Capers’ defense, and the Patriots will be looking for one, likely in the draft and perhaps in free agency as well. Advice Matthews would give to such rookies that could wind up playing the role he has?
“Just have to stay focused, that’s really it,” Matthews said. “You have to grind day-in and day-out, and not let the fact that you’re a first-year player, that you have the moniker of a rookie, affect you or affect your play, and go out there and get respect and develop a name for yourself.
“I knew that once I knew what I was doing and was able to play at full speed, I could be here today. Did I think I was playing this well? Who knows. But I’m confident in my abilities, and I think everyone else within that SC organization, all these rookies, we had a great rookie class. Everyone believes in themselves and great things happened.”