Clay Matthews made it to six Pro Bowls in his 10 seasons as a linebacker with the Packers, but he also gained a reputation for late hits after the whistle.
But now that Matthews has moved on and is with the Rams, he seems to think the Packers are the ones who could get flagged for unnecessary roughness.
In a great little Twitter exchange this week, Green Bay’s official account tweeted a picture of first-round pick Rashan Gary — a linebacker who ostensibly fills Matthews’ shoes — in a Packers No. 52 jersey.
That’s the number Matthews wore for a decade. Some Packers fans jumped in to wonder if it was too soon to give someone else those digits. And Matthews hilariously replied to the tweet himself with, “The body’s not even cold yet lol.”
As these things tend to do, the Matthews number situation got me thinking about local parallels and the business of retiring numbers — officially or unofficially — in general.
Perhaps the most striking similarity comes with the Vikings and Randy Moss. Though they didn’t reissue his No. 84 right away after he was traded in 2005, they did give it to rookie receiver Aundrae Allison in 2007.
That caused a stir with Vikings fans. Allison said teammates gave him a hard time about it.
“It surprises me that it seems to be such a big deal that I have 84,” Allison said in 2007. “Randy’s a great player, but to me it’s just a number.”
Allison, a fifth-round pick, caught 18 passes in his Vikings career. Moss reclaimed No. 84 briefly when he rejoined the Vikings in 2010. Since then, three other Vikings have been given that number — most famously receiver/return man Cordarrelle Patterson. Cris Carter’s No. 80 was retired in 2003; one has to wonder when Moss’ time will come.
It seems like Moss would have been worthy of at least similar treatment as Kevin Garnett or Brett Favre.
Garnett’s No. 21 hasn’t yet been retired, but no other Timberwolf has worn that number since he was drafted in 1995.
Similarly, Green Bay didn’t retire Favre’s number right away after he moved on from that organization in 2008. But nobody else wore it for the next seven years until it was officially retired by the team in 2015.
Franchises can take all the guesswork out by announcing the retirement of a number shortly after an athlete’s playing days are over.
That has happened a couple times locally in the last year, with the Twins announcing Joe Mauer’s No. 7 will be retired and the Lynx announcing Lindsay Whalen’s No. 13 will hang in the Target Center rafters.
Someone like Matthews, though, falls into more of a gray area. He’s a very good player, but not on par with an all-time great. And he hasn’t retired — he’s simply moved to another team.
Bert Blyleven, for instance, had two stints with the Twins — 1970-76 and 1985-88 — and joined other teams after both.
His No. 28 wasn’t retired until 2011, the same year he was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Between 1988 and 2011, several Twins wore No. 28 — including Jesse Crain for seven seasons. Then again, it wasn’t until 1997 that the number was given out again (Greg Colbrunn).
Perhaps with Matthews, it just seemed like his number was given out too quickly — though one fan on Twitter was quick to reply with this: “We’ve mourned Clay longer than 3 months … more like 3-4 years.”