Hunt's starting job on the line

Cletidus Hunt, the underachieving defensive tackle, will get a chance to retain his starting job, but nothing more, defensive coordinator Jim Bates says. Since Hunt signed a six-year, $25 million contract before the 2003 season, he has yet to live up to expectations placed on him by the Green Bay Packers.<p>

Hunt, for the second straight off-season, has decided to not participate in the team's off-season workout program, or volunteer opportunity practice sessions. Hunt is expected to participate in this week's mandatory mini-camp.

Bates indicated over the weekend that there is no guarantee that Hunt will start at the three-technique position.

"He has to come in and prove that he can play," Bates said. "He has to compete, just like anybody else for a position. If he competes and plays on an every-down basis with his ability level, he will be playing all the time. If he doesn't, he gets beat out. That's all there is to it. That's the way to be with any player on the team. Nobody is going to be given a position. He'll be put out there. If he's ready to go, then we're ready to go with him. He has the ability to do it. It's his job and our job to get it done."

Hunt played in all 16 games last year and made 14 starts. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Cullen Jenkins in the regular season finale against the Chicago Bears. He finish the season with 37 tackles (21 solo), two sacks and one forced fumble.

Hunt, entering his seventh season, was designated as a "transition player" by the Packers after the 2002 season when he had 5 1/2 sacks and a career-high 48 tackles. He received a $6 million signing bonus (upfront money), but his production dropped to 46 tackles and four sacks in 2003. In fairness to Hunt, he played four games at nose tackle for the injured Grady Jackson last year, but the Packers have clearly been disappointed with his production.

Hunt's season got off to a rocky start last year when he skipped the team's off-season workout program. He then missed the first couple of days of a non-mandatory June mini-camp. When he did report, he was not in tip-top shape.

Bates said there is a chance that the Packers will try Hunt at defensive end, but probably not until training camp.

"We might do that," Bates said. "It's for the coaches to see what we have and put the best combination on the field."

Hunt will be pushed this year by Jenkins and Donnell Washington, who was injured early in training camp last year and placed on injured reserve. Washingtno was selected in the third round of the 2004 NFL Draft by the Packers.


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