SANTA CLARA – The last time Joe Staley faced Clay Matthews, Staley gave up three sacks and got his nose broken.
Staley will face Matthews again Saturday night. Staley spoke about Matthews Monday in the 49ers media tent, and here’s what Staley said.
Q: When you found out you were playing the Packers, what was the first thing that came to your mind?
STALEY: Excited. Excited for the opportunity to play against Clay [Matthews] again. I didn’t play particularly the first time I went against him, but I’ll play him again.
Q: What went wrong for you against Matthews earlier this season?
STALEY: It was a lot of technique issues, first week of the season. I thought I could just go out and play. When you’re going against a player of that caliber, you have to be on your technique every single play. I cleaned that up. I’m a lot different player now at this point of the season than I was Week 1. I’m excited to play against him again.
Q: Were you happy with your run blocking in that game?
STALEY: Yeah, we had a solid day running in that game. We’re paid to do both. I expect myself to be solid in both areas.
Q: Is there a different feeling this season? A lot of you guys were first-year playoff guys.
STALEY: Yeah, I think we know what to expect going forward. I think last year, a lot of the players on the team had to draw from some of the older veterans. But we all have playoff experience on this team, except for the rookies. We know what kind of atmosphere it’s going to be.
Q: You still have that scar on your nose from the first game of the season. Do you think of Clay Matthews when you look in the mirror?
STALEY: No, I do not think of Clay Matthews when I look in the mirror.
Q: Can you take us through what happened?
STALEY: I wore a helmet for the first time. It was a new helmet and it was misfitting, and every single time I would block it would come down. It messed up my nose pretty good – I think it was broken, I wasn’t told. You saw the bloodiness and the gash is still there. It sucked.
Q: That had to have played a factor in your performance that day.
STALEY: It’s not an excuse. It was the technique stuff more than anything. I’ve played through stuff like that before.
Q: Do you get the sense that Kaepernick is getting going with the mental aspect of the game?
STALEY: Yeah, he’s a second-year player who had his first starting experience this season. As you go forward, you get more games under your belt and you pick up things. It’s hard to replicate games in practice and the preparation it takes during the week when you’re starting. Now that he’s starting – he’s started a good chunk of the season for us – his preparation is getting better. He’s getting a lot better as far as getting us into plays and just being the field general that we need.
Q: How has the run game changed since Kaepernick took over? Gore’s numbers have gone down.
STALEY: We’re doing more read stuff because Colin’s such a threat with his legs as well. It’s all the same things, but we’re running certain plays more or less than previously.
Q: Harbaugh was saying the defense receives a lift when Justin Smith is back on the field. Do you guys notice that too on offense, that he’s back out there?
STALEY: Yeah, he’s a great leader not only for our defense, but for our whole team. As offensive players, when he’s out there we get excited. When he’s shooting gaps and stopping runs in the backfield. He’s just a huge presence. That’s why he’s one of the best at his position in the NFL. It’s going to be big to have him back out there.