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Clay Matthews doesn’t fault refs who make mistakes

Green Bay Packers v Minnesota Vikings

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 23: Christian Ponder #7 of the Minnesota Vikings takes a late hit from Clay Matthews #52 of the Green Bay Packers after getting the ball off at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on October 23, 2011 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher /Getty Images)

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Packers linebacker Clay Matthews was flagged for a bogus roughing the passer penalty against the Vikings, but he’s not angry about it.

Asked on the Scott Van Pelt Show whether he’s upset with the referee who threw the flag on that, Matthews said it was just an honest mistake.

“I asked the ref what he called me on,” Matthews said. “He said I used the top of my helmet to launch into him. And I can see where he wouldn’t be able to see it from the correct angle, so it’s understandable. . . . It comes down to a split-second decision and you can’t fault the referee for that.”

That’s a gracious response from Matthews, but I don’t agree with it: It’s not understandable for a referee to throw a flag if he didn’t see a hit from the correct angle. If the ref didn’t see a penalty, he shouldn’t have called a penalty. And on the play in question (pictured here), Matthews made a textbook example of a legal hit and got flagged for it anyway. You can fault the referee for that.

It was fortunate for Matthews that the NFL reviewed the tape of the penalty, realized that it never should have been called, and decided not to fine him. But Matthews says he doesn’t want roughing the passer to become a reviewable penalty during games, because he doesn’t want the game to be slowed down by referees reviewing those replays.

“I don’t see it moving forward to review penalties with regard to late hits or illegal hits simply because it takes a little away from the game,” Matthews said. “Referees are supposed to make judgment calls.”

And even when the referee’s judgment is wrong, Matthews isn’t going to make a big deal out of it.