So, as the media horde gathered around his locker following his shower, Clinton-Dix turned around and said, “I’m not talking today,” and busted through the pack of reporters holding recorders, cameras and microphones.
Clinton-Dix, flashing a wide smile across his face, quickly turned around to discuss his first big day as a member of the Green Bay Packers. In reality, he had the kind of day that is expected from a first-round pick but had evaded him to that point. Clinton-Dix, who had only gotten his hands on a couple of balls and had never been close to intercepting a pass through the first 13 training camp practices open to reporters and two preseason games, intercepted two passes during Monday’s practice in the Don Hutson Center.
“I thought it was great to actually touch the ball again after a while, so that felt good,” Clinton-Dix said, no doubt feeling a bit of relief.
Afterward, he could have chalked up his two interceptions to God-given talent. Or to the coaches at Alabama who got him ready for the NFL. Or for his coaches in Green Bay for continuing his development.
Instead, Clinton-Dix in essence said it’s better to be lucky than good.
Asked about his second interception, a dump-off to James Starks that went through the veteran running back’s hands and right into Clinton-Dix’s, the rookie safety said: “I just remember it falling into my hands. I felt like it was luck. I’ll call it lucky.”
Lucky or not, the interceptions were just what the doctor ordered. First-round draft picks arrive with absurd expectations heaped upon their shoulders. The expectations on Clinton-Dix were nothing less than being the savior of a defense that received neither an interception nor forced fumble from its safeties last season. The reality has been something quite different. Clinton-Dix hasn’t been a savior. Just like the first day of organized team activities back in May, he is working behind Micah Hyde, a converted cornerback who was drafted in the fifth round last year.
While Clinton-Dix has made his mark in something that doesn’t show up in a box score – fearlessness in run support – he too often has been a day late and a dollar short on pass defense. That was evident on the Rams’ long pass play to set up their touchdown against Green Bay’s No. 1 defense. Clinton-Dix was caught flat-footed when Brian Quick made a leaping catch against Sam Shields. That allowed Quick to turn a 25-yard play into a 41-yard gain.
Clinton-Dix did notch a sack against the Rams, when he used his power to win a laughable mismatch against undersized rookie back Tre Mason. Then came Monday’s practice. His first interception was thrown right to him, as undrafted quarterback Chase Rettig through a terrible, wobbling pass well over the head of the intended receiver. Give Clinton-Dix credit for being in the right spot at the right time. The second interception wound up going right to him, as well, as Aaron Rodgers’ checkdown slithered through Starks’ mitts during a two-minute drill. Give Clinton-Dix for remarkable reactions and hand/eye coordination.
“It’s slowing down for me,” Clinton-Dix said. “I’ve just got to continue to fight and find my role on this team, whatever it was.”
Clinton-Dix was coached at Alabama by his living-legend coach, Nick Saban. Saban, a defensive back at Kent State and former NFL defensive backs coach, defensive coordinator and head coach, is considered one of the top defensive back gurus in the game. Clinton-Dix called Saban “a great guy, a great mentor, a great coach.” Saban sat with Clinton-Dix at the draft and gave him a congratulatory hug after the Packers selected him with the 21st pick of the first round.
“He just asked me if I was ready and I said, ‘I’m ready to go, Coach,’” Clinton-Dix recalled of their brief conversation while embracing.
Maybe, now that the ice is broken with his first interceptions, Clinton-Dix is ready to contend for something more than a part-time role on defense.
Agree or disagree?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave Bill a question in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum.
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com, and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.