Clay Matthews said the NFL is "getting soft" after he was whistled for a third roughing-the-passer penalty this season.

The NFL expressed immediate support for the call in the latest instance of the controversial effort to protect quarterbacks this season.

"Unfortunately this league's going in a direction I think a lot of people don't like. I think they're getting soft," Matthews said. "The only thing hard about this league is the fines they levy down on guys like me who play the game hard."

Official Craig Wrolstad penalized Matthews for landing on Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith late in the third quarter of a 31-17 Packers loss at FedEx Field.

"Obviously when you're tackling a guy from the front you're gonna land on him," Matthews said. "I understand the spirit of the rule, I said that weeks prior. But when you have a hit like that, that's a football play.

"I even went up to Alex Smith after the game, asked him, 'What do you think? What can I do differently?' Because that's a football play."

There were an NFL-record 21 roughing-the-passer penalties through the first two weeks of the 2018 season. Matthews is the first NFL player since at least 2001 to be penalized three times for roughing the passer in the first three games of a season.