SANTA CLARA -- A week ago, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh referenced the “tough talk” of Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews.
On Monday, Harbaugh suggested Matthews’ image sustained damage after he slapped 49ers left tackle Joe Staley during a second-quarter skirmish that ensued after Matthews’ late hit on quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
“I looked at it with my own eyes,” Harbaugh said the day after the 49ers’ 34-28 season-opening victory over the Packers at Candlestick Park.
“I could see two punches thrown to Joe’s head -- well, one punch and one open slap, which . . . 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.”
After reviewing the play, NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino determined that Staley should not have been penalized for his role in the shoving match. Staley was assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after Matthews’ personal foul. The penalties offset. Matthews is subject to a hefty fine from the NFL, which could be announced later in the week.
In the lead-up to the season opener, Matthews last week stressed the importance of hitting Kaepernick to force the 49ers to abandon plans to use the quarterback-driven run game. Matthews’ hit on Kaepernick occurred with Kaepernick clearly out of bounds.
[REWIND -- Harbaugh: Hits on running QBs are 'gray area']
“Talk about launching,” Harbaugh said. “Talk about a clothesline when our quarterback is 6 or 7 feet out of bounds.”
Harbaugh said the play evoked memories of Hall of Fame defensive back Emlen Tunnell, who played for the New York Giants from 1948 to ’58 during a time when that play was commonplace.
“Back when that was legal, he would stand in the middle of the field and wait for receivers to cross and he’d clothesline them and their feet would fly up the air and their backs would hit the ground,” Harbaugh said.