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Hawk put ego aside in decision to restructure

Aug. 2, 2013
 
Green Bay Packers player A.J. Hawk during an OTA practice in May. File/Press-Gazette Media
Green Bay Packers player A.J. Hawk during an OTA practice in May. File/Press-Gazette Media

A.J. Hawk has learned a lot from the hundreds of players who have come and gone in the Green Bay Packersí locker room during his seven years with the organization.

Some were talented veterans or well-regarded play-makers who declined when asked to take a pay cut for the sake of the teamís salary cap and were promptly given a professional heave-ho.

Based on how many of those scenarios have played out, the 29-year-old linebacker gained perhaps his biggest NFL insight Ė you typically donít want to be one of them.

ďIf you look around Ö guys that donít accept them, it usually doesnít go too well for you,Ē said Hawk, the teamís fifth-overall selection in the 2006 NFL draft.

Twice in Hawkís career, heís been that guy. The first time came in 2011 when the Packers cut him to avoid paying a $10 million guaranteed salary before resigning him to a five-year, $33.75 million contract that actually paid him $10.95 million in the first year with an $8 million signing bonus.

This offseason, the Packers restructured that contract down $7.25 million over the next three years that reduced his cap number from $7.05 million in 2013 to $5.2 million.

Despite having four seasons of more than 100 tackles, Hawk never has been the game-changer most expect from a top-five pick, but durability has been Hawkís calling card throughout his career.

Even when it looked in recent years like he might be overtaken by up-and-comers like Desmond Bishop, Brandon Chillar and D.J. Smith, Hawk never was forced off the field for any long duration - missing only two of a possible 112 career regular-season games.

ďThey were super respectful how they came to me and let me knew that they wanted me to be a part of this team,Ē said Hawk of his March restructure. ďI think itís more of an ego thing than anything that guys canít get over. They donít want to say theyíre taking a pay cut because it hurts their ego. I let that go a long time ago.

ďI wasnít worried about that. I donít care what the outside perception is, if my grandma reads that I took a pay cut and Iím not making as much money, I could put a phone call into her and let her know that itís going to be OK. Weíll be fine. I have a financial adviser.Ē

Thereís no indication Hawk wonít remain in the driverís seat this year. The Packers parted ways with Bishop this offseason after the 28-year-old linebacker was coming off a torn hamstring suffered in the preseason-opener against San Diego on Aug. 9, 2012.

The rest of the teamís returning inside reserves Ė Jamari Lattimore, Robert Francois and Terrell Manning Ė combined for eight defensive snaps behind Hawk and Brad Jones, who joined the starting lineup fter Bishopís replacement, Smith, suffered a season-ending ACL tear.

Looking around the locker room these days, Hawk understands heís the elder statesmen of the group. He supports the league instituting a HGH testing procedure, likes what heís sees in the teamís young inside linebackers and looks to preserve the culture thatís been built during his tenure.

Hawk also wants to correct what went wrong in the teamís 45-31 loss to San Francisco in the NFC divisional playoffs, indicating the embarrassment the defense felt after being shredded for 579 total yards.

Most importantly, Hawk wants to finish his career where it started - just not anytime soon.

ďIím going to play as long as I can. Iím going to make them kick me out,Ē Hawk said. ďIím sure guys will lie to you and tell you they physically feel great when they donít, but I honestly do. I practice every day. My legs feel as good as they have. Iíve never had any real shoulder or knee or anything, any issues. Iím trying to keep it that way. I try to stay around here as long as I can.Ē

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