Hawk: Declining? Hurt? Or Overworked

And is the all-time leading tackler in team history living on borrowed time with his declining production, advancing age and $5.1 million cap number for 2015? (Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY)

“I’m not hurt.”

Those were A.J. Hawk’s words during a rare locker room appearance on Thursday, two days after quarterback Aaron Rodgers said Hawk was playing hurt and lauded his longtime friend and teammate’s toughness. With diminishing productivity, Hawk has gone from an every-down role to a part-time role to almost no role at all over the past three weeks.

“My body has bounced back every week,” Hawk said. “Like I said, I feel better older than I did younger. I think he was just trying to be supportive of a friend or teammate.”

Defensive coordinator Dom Capers didn’t think Hawk was hurt, either. Overworked, maybe. Hawk, 30, played all but 12 defensive snaps spanning the Week 2 game against the Jets to the Week 11 game against the Eagles. He found himself out of the dime defense in Week 12 against Minnesota and out of the nickel and dime against the Patriots and Falcons the past two weeks. With Atlanta throwing the ball on nearly every down, especially in the second half, Hawk played just eight snaps last week.

“I think he’s probably better now that we aren’t playing him (every snap),” Capers said. “There were a couple games he played 70 plays. We’re always concerned about not overplaying our guys to where hopefully we can have him as healthy as we can have him through the month of December and hopefully a chance to play after that. I think A.J.’s fine now. I think he’s better right now with the fact that he hasn’t played 70 plays the last couple weeks. I think that will bode well for us moving forward.”

Hawk is in the second season of a three-year deal that was renegotiated in March 2013. He has a cap number of $5.1 million this season as well as in 2015. If the Packers were to release Hawk, they’d wipe his $2.45 million base salary and $1.05 million of roster bonuses off the books and save $3.5 million against the cap.

Whatever happens, the all-time leading tackler in franchise history is ready.

“I’ve been preparing since the day I walked in here for the day I get cut,” Hawk said. “I’ve been cut before, so whenever they decide to let me roll, that’s something I’ve been preparing for since I was 21 -- basically, when I get drafted. But I have no idea. I can’t predict the future. I definitely don’t try to. I don’t deal in hypotheticals, that’s for sure. They can tap me on the shoulder right now and get me out of here. Our contracts aren’t real contracts like that -- they’re not obliged to keep me here through (2015). So, I don’t think I let my mind wander or anything towards what could happen. That’s not up to me, but try to hopefully get another ring at least before they give me the boot.”

We will have more on Hawk tonight – as well as his replacement, Sam Barrington.

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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