Q&A: Clinton-Dix says bye to 'rookie' label

Ryan Wood
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Green Bay Packers free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix defends a pass intended for Chicago Bears wide receiver Josh Morgan in the first quarter.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was 9 years old when Tom Brady led the New England Patriots to their first Super Bowl in an upset over the St. Louis Rams.

His aunt was a Brady fan. New England always was on TV, drawing prime-time matchups. So the Green Bay Packers rookie safety watched the Patriots throughout his childhood.

He's never seen them like this.

The Packers' first-round draft pick will get his first crack at Brady when Green Bay hosts New England Sunday. Some have billed it as a potential Super Bowl preview. That is premature, but Brady and the Patriots give Clinton-Dix and the Packers' defense a chance to measure itself against one of the best.

The rookie shared his thoughts on the matchup in this week's Q&A.

How much are you looking forward to your first test against Tom Brady?

Clinton-Dix: I'm looking forward to it. He's one of the best quarterbacks in this league. He's going to be a Hall of Famer. So he's a great quarterback.

When Brady led New England to its first Super Bowl, you were a child. What's your favorite memory of watching him?

Clinton-Dix: Man, Tom Brady has done a lot. My aunt was a fan of him growing up. Just to be here now and playing against him is amazing.

It's one thing when you're watching him on Sunday, another when you're preparing to compete against him. What have you learned from watching the film?

Clinton-Dix: He can make any throw, no matter if you're covering them or not. He's good with the ball. He makes the right calls, the right checks. You've just got to bring your A-game.

At some point Sunday, you may be matched up against Rob Gronkowski. What do you have to do against a guy that big and that fast?

Clinton-Dix: Gronk is a hell of a tight end. He's good with the ball, great with the ball after the catch. You've got to tackle him and get him on the ground.

There were a lot of expectations for you as a first-round draft pick. How do you think your rookie season has gone so far?

Clinton-Dix: Technically, I don't want to say I'm a rookie anymore. My rookie season is over with. I've just got to continue getting better each and every day, keep fighting.

You seem to be getting better each week. How have you avoided that rookie wall?

Clinton-Dix: I've just been comfortable. Knowing my assignments, knowing my job, and just playing fundamental football.

When did you cross over in your mind from your "rookie season?"

Clinton-Dix: After the bye week. It was just over with. The first half of the season was over with, and I've got a whole other season left. And this is a big game.

The Patriots have been the NFL's gold standard for a long time. Does that add anything extra to this matchup?

Clinton-Dix: It's very important. This is a big game for me. I look forward to it. It's a dream come true. Just to be here is a blessing. I'm grateful for it.

Green Bay and New England both started 2-2, lower than expectations, but both turned the season around. What's been the key?

Clinton-Dix: Just playing fundamental ball. Everyone believing in each other, everyone believing in their assignment, and just playing fast.

How much does it help when you have a leader like Aaron Rodgers standing up publicly and saying, "Relax?"

Clinton-Dix: It means a lot, just to have A-Rod calming all us down and just continue to stick to the plan. That's what we've had to do.

What did it feel like to be 2-2, kind of shaky earlier this season?

Clinton-Dix: We just had to find ourselves. I think we established that. We know who we are now. We're just going to keep moving forward.

— and follow him on Twitter @ByRyanWood

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