Packers can't get Clinton-Dix off the field

Michael Cohen
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Nov 28, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Green Bay Packers free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (21) reacts after his interception of a Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (not pictured) pass during the second half at Lincoln Financial Field. The Green Bay Packers won 27-13. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Editor's note: After publication of this story, it was learned the NFL altered the snap count for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix during the Green Bay Packers' win Nov. 28 over the Philadelphia Eagles. The original snap-count tally for Clinton-Dix was listed as 58 of 59 possible snaps on defense and that statistic was used for this story. PackersNews since has learned the league adjusted Clinton-Dix's snap count and now lists him as playing all 59 snaps. That means Clinton-Dix has not missed a defensive snap this season. 

GREEN BAY — There is a popular saying in the Green Bay Packers’ locker room that the best ability is availability. In other words, a player can have all the physical gifts and mental acuity in the world, but none of it matters if he can’t stay healthy.

This year, no defensive player in the National Football League has been more available than Glover Quin of the Detroit Lions. With three weeks left in the regular season, Quin has played 100 percent of his team’s snaps, all 830.

While nobody else on Quin’s side of the ball has achieved maximum availability, there are a few who come close, and six of them have played 99.9 percent of snaps. They are, in no particular order, linebacker Bobby Wagner of the Seattle Seahawks; safety Malcolm Jenkins of the Philadelphia Eagles; linebacker Sean Lee of the Dallas Cowboys; linebacker Alec Ogletree of the Los Angeles Rams; safety Reggie Nelson of the Oakland Raiders; and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, starting safety for the Packers.

“I do it every week,” Clinton-Dix said. “I’ve just got to continue working hard and making sure I take care of the little things and just keep playing ball. I really don’t care about stats. I don’t care about any of that stuff. I just care about performing each and every weekend and helping my team win ball games.”

Now in his third year, Clinton-Dix has played 821 of 822 possible snaps. His only absence was a single play against the Philadelphia Eagles, a game the Packers won handily. He ranks third on the team in tackles (60) and is tied for the team lead in interceptions with three.

Perhaps more important than the statistical contributions is this: For the second time in as many seasons Clinton-Dix is on pace to play at least 99 percent of snaps. It’s something no other Packers defensive player has accomplished in five years of data collected by the website Football Outsiders, and for the second year in a row he will play the most snaps of anyone on that side of the ball since 2012.

“Ha Ha is durable,” safeties coach Darren Perry said earlier this season. “Since he’s been here I don’t know if the guy has missed a practice. When he’s been asked to step up and play, he’s been there. Reliability, durability, accountability — all those things he represents. Ha Ha has been a tremendous leader, and I think our young guys see that.”

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Prior to 2015, when Clinton-Dix led the defense by playing 99.7 percent of snaps, no one had eclipsed the 99 percent threshold since fellow safety Morgan Burnett did not miss a play in 2012. Burnett and former St. Louis Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis were the only defensive players to log maximum reps that season.

Burnett, who is second on the defense with 89.8 percent of snaps this season, said he did not think about his participation levels as the season progressed because his body — somewhat remarkably — had little or no damage.

“I didn’t really count the snaps,” Burnett said. “I was just out there playing. My body was fine. I was feeling good.”

Of course, feeling good for a professional football player includes the normal levels of pain during any given week. For Clinton-Dix, pain sets in the day after each game and is worst on Monday and Tuesday. His body, he says, does not feel normal again until Saturday, roughly 24 hours before he begins the process again.

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Clinton-Dix credits his durability to a strict off-field regimen that begins shortly after the conclusion of each game and continues through the following weekend. His typical recovery includes frequent trips to the cold tub, three massages per week and lots of stretching to keep his muscles loose.

“I can say my body is really aching and it hurts a lot on Monday,” Clinton-Dix said. “But throughout the week it dials down and it gets better. … Saturday is to where I feel the most comfortable. That’s the day before the game, so regardless of how I may feel physically, mentally I’m feeling great.

“I kind of built a routine, built a habit and I kind of just stuck with that. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

Added Perry: “There’s an element of toughness you see that may sometimes go unnoticed. But to be able to play the number of snaps he’s played in the early part of his career and getting production, Ha Ha has doing a lot of good things and I’m glad we’ve got him.”

In a year when injuries decimated the secondary, Clinton-Dix is a soothing presence for defensive coordinator Dom Capers. His contributions remain constant as the cornerbacks play roulette.

“When you’re available and always there, that means that we always can count on you,” Burnett said. “That’s part of doing your job.”

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