That figures to change when the Green Bay Packers host the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. The Bills, with three quality running backs and a suspect passing game, figure to regularly line up in a traditional two-back offense. That would allow the Packers to use their base 3-4 defense, where Hawk starts at inside linebacker alongside Nick Barnett, rather than nickel (five defensive backs) or dime (six defensive backs), where Brandon Chillar plays with Barnett.
"I like him a lot," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said of Hawk on Friday. "I think he's a really good football player. I think he's a bright guy, he makes all the calls, he's valuable."
But not valuable enough against pass-first teams that spread the field. In those instances, Capers and inside linebackers coach Winston Moss prefer Chillar's athleticism and coverage ability to Hawk's physicality.
Hawk's role — or lack thereof — led his agent, Mike McCartney, to say that the No. 5 overall pick of the 2006 draft would be open to a trade.
"Not really," Moss said when asked if he discussed that with Hawk. "A.J.'s a great pro. He's responded well. I'm sure whatever comments his agent made, he's looking out for the best interests of his client. We're getting ready for the Bills. Whatever happened on Sunday with Philadelphia is in the past."
Moss said Hawk has responded well and "his attitude's been perfect," an assessment that Capers echoed. Whether Hawk likes it or not, he's going to be a situational player until he proves he should be a full-time performer.
"I think that he had his best training camp since he's been here," Moss said. "The production in preseason did not confirm that. He didn't play last week, so now we'll get to evaluate him and see how far he's come and confirm what we were talking about during camp. He's in the right direction, based on what we talked about in the offseason — just having a different mind-set to where, ‘It's very important for you, with your ability, to be aggressive and take those shots when you have that opportunity and don't be afraid to go after it.'"
Defensive line shorthanded
That leaves the Packers' defensive line with starters Cullen Jenkins, Ryan Pickett and B.J. Raji, and rookie seventh-round pick C.J. Wilson and recently re-signed Jarius Wynn in reserve. Throw in that Jenkins will be playing with a broken hand, and that position group is a, ummm, sore spot heading into Sunday.
"Well, trying to look at the positive side of it, we've got some young guys that are getting a lot of reps," Capers said. "Normally, those guys get better. I think that will help us down the road here because some guys have been thrust into positions where they're going to be playing more and they're getting a lot of practice time. I like the energy they bring to practice. (But) yeah, we don't want to get any thinner there."
Neal was held out of practice because of his side/rib, a step back from Thursday, when he was a limited participant.
Neal played in every game over his final three seasons at Purdue, including when he started as a junior and senior.
"I was just teasing him in there, ‘The coaches at Purdue told me you never missed practice,'" defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said. "He said, ‘Coach, I've never missed a practice. I love to practice.' This is hurting him; this is something he's not used to. He played a lot of snaps every game at Purdue, and he never missed practice. So, this is something new for him, too."
Luckily for the Packers, Wynn was available after being released in the final cuts.
"When we released him, I told him make sure you do it right, you stay in shape, you never know what's going to happen," Trgovac said. "It was very close to him being kept over some other guys. It just worked out for him — unfortunately for the other guy (Harrell) — that he's back here a week later and all of the stuff that we're doing is pretty much the same."
Packers injury report
Questionable — LB Desmond Bishop (hamstring), G Daryn Colledge (illness), FB Korey Hall (hip), DE Mike Neal (rib/side), CB Brandon Underwood (shoulder). Probable — LT Chad Clifton (knee), DE Cullen Jenkins (hand), S Derrick Martin (ankle), LB Clay Matthews (hamstring), CB Charles Woodson (toe).
Chalking it up to "some bad couscous," Colledge sat out practice. Colledge said it's just a "one-day thing" and had no doubts he'd be on the field on Sunday. In case he can't, or if he needs some relief because he's at less than full strength, first-round pick Bryan Bulaga would step in.
Bills injury report
Moorman, the NFL's all-decade punter, woke up with a "little issue" but should be fine for the game, coach Chan Gailey said.
Standout safety Jairus Byrd is not on the injury list. Byrd, who as a rookie last year tied Woodson, the Saints' Darren Sharper and the Eagles' Asante Samuel for the NFL lead with nine interceptions, missed the Bills' last three preseason games and split the snaps in last week's opener after groin surgery.
"He's exciting. He's one of the best in the game right now," Byrd told reporters in Buffalo when asked about Aaron Rodgers. "They're definitely going to throw the ball around a lot so there are going to be opportunities to make plays. Our defense doesn't lack confidence. I know we need to prove it, but we're up for the challenge."
— New running back Dimitri Nance could be on the 45-man gameday roster with a package of plays, McCarthy said. Nance, who was signed on Tuesday off of the Falcons' practice squad, is trying to get a handle on the playbook after being in Atlanta since May.
— In case the defense needs another big body in short-yardage situations, Trgovac said he'd enlist starting right guard Josh Sitton. Sitton would have been used last week, too, but the Eagles never forced the Packers' hand despite being shorthanded up front.
— The Bills will challenge the Packers' defense with three quality running backs. But, hey, it sure beats chasing Michael Vick, right? "Yes!" Jenkins said with enthusiasm.
— Bart and Cherry Starr will be making what's being called "the most significant donation of items to the (Packers Hall of Fame) by a former player" on Saturday.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.