Bob Rosato /Sports Illustrated via Getty Clay Matthews and Aaron Rodgers
Clay Matthews is tackling his transition to retirement.
After spending nine seasons with the Green Bay Packers and one with the Los Angeles Rams, the former NFL linebacker opened up to PEOPLE about his decision to hang up his cleats for good.
"It's been three years since I've played a game," Matthews, 36, tells PEOPLE exclusively. "I think it's fair to say that my playing days are behind me."
Currently a free agent, the last time the pro football player touched the field was as a Ram in 2019 — and though he hasn't verbally announced his retirement, Matthews says he doesn't know if he "needs to make some official statement."
In fact, he's quite content with how his career has come to an end — in part due to an important aspect in his life, if not more important than the game he knew and loved the most. For Matthews, that's fatherhood.
"It's been a pretty easy transition for me," the dad of three says. "It just went straight into changing diapers, rocking kids back to sleep, getting 'em off to school, helping with homework and going to sports."
He adds: "I know a lot of athletes in particular have trouble with that kind of transition as far as what they're gonna do next in life because so much of their identity is wrapped up in the crowd and the spotlight that comes from being an athlete."
Needless to say, the transition has been smooth for Matthews — and while it may be harder for others, the athlete has served as a prime example for his former teammates of what life could look like away from the gridiron.
"I still have a good relationship with Aaron [Rodgers]," says Matthews of the current Green Bay Packers quarterback. While he explains that he might "slip him a text when he does something great" on the field, he notes that he often "lets him know it's not so bad on the other side."
Todd Kirkland/Icon SMI/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty
He continues: "I have sent him a text before where I'll be with the kids... or I'll be out hunting or something like that and I'll be like, 'It's not so bad on this side if you're wavering, I'm just letting you know it's not so bad.' "
Matthews still has a few things to clean up in retirement, though. He's thought about officially retiring as a Packer — the team he's played 10 out of his 11 NFL seasons with, one of which he nabbed the Super Bowl XLV victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2011 — but for Matthews, he's not entirely sure that's a priority. "Are you supposed to sign a one day [contract]?" he asks.
But whether that happens or not, "ultimately at some point I will get back up to Green Bay, especially as my kids get older and are able to understand what dad did for a living," he says. "Because now, they just see me and probably think I'm a bum!" he jokes.
And if Matthews is hanging up his jersey for good, he emphasized his commitment to washing it first. The Super Bowl Champion has teamed up with Tide to bust the myth that "lucky" jerseys don't need to be washed, and they're offering fans a chance to win Super Bowl tickets or a meetup with Matthews.
"We are tackling superstitions around the league, specifically with fans and their lucky jerseys," he says. "And although they may be lucky, they're definitely dirty. So we need you to wash them, preferably with Tide."