Joe Staley said he wishes linebacker Clay Matthews were healthy for Sunday’s playoff showdown in Green Bay, and it’s not because Staley and his 49ers teammates want to take a few extra shots at the Packers’ antagonist.
At least not entirely.
“He’s someone that I really look forward to going against,” Staley, the 49ers’ left tackle, said Tuesday. “He whipped my (butt) up there the first time in Green Bay, and I felt like I did the same thing to him at my house. I was looking forward to the rubber match up there in Green Bay.”
That decisive battle won’t come this time.
Matthews has been ruled out of Sunday’s NFC wild-card game after a second surgery on his broken right thumb. He leads the Packers with 71/2 sacks despite missing five starts because of the injury.
The blond, long-haired linebacker became notorious to 49ers fans, coaches and a few offensive players before and during the teams’ Week 1 encounter.
Before the game, Matthews took to the airwaves to say the Packers were prepared to hit quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who ran roughshod over Green Bay in last season’s playoff meeting, if he tried to run the read-option. During the game, he had a flying tackle on Kaepernick when the quarterback was well out of bounds.
The late hit sparked a sideline melee with Staley, who was flagged for a personal foul. The 49ers were upset about the hit for days, with coach Jim Harbaugh calling it a “cheap shot.”
“I could see two punches thrown to Joe’s head – well, one punch and one open slap,” Harbaugh said of the sideline fisticuffs. “… If you’re going to go to the face, come with some knuckles. I think that young man works very hard on being a tough guy. He’ll have some repairing to do to his image after the slap.”
Matthews was fined $15,000 for the late hit, but guard Alex Boone said at the time he’d like to punish the linebacker in another way.
“Probably punch him in the face,” Boone said. “I don’t want his money.”
As for Staley, he said there was nothing personal between him and Matthews and explained it was merely “two people competing.” Matthews had a sack and eight tackles in that game, but Kaepernick threw for 412 yards and three touchdowns as San Francisco won 34-28.
Instead of Matthews, Staley mostly will draw backup linebacker Andy Mulumba. Staley, who played at Central Michigan, noted the possibility of a budding rivalry between him and Mulmba.
“He’s (from) Eastern Michigan,” he said. “He’s a MAC (Mid-American Conference) guy. We’ll have that MAC competition.”
If Rogers can’t play, Eric Wright would take over his role in nickel coverages, which the 49ers promise to use extensively against pass-happy Green Bay.
Drevno, who coaches alongside Mike Solari on the offensive line, has worked with Harbaugh since 2004 when Harbaugh was hired by the University of San Diego.
“Coach Drevno and I have partnered for the last decade at the University of San Diego, Stanford University and the San Francisco 49ers,” Harbaugh said in a statement. “Tim has been a trusted agent, outstanding football coach and known friend every step of the way.”