Grounded: Hawk stuck in unfamiliar territory

Chest injury leaves the weak-side linebacker stuck on the sideline for an indefinite period.

They say there's a first time for everything. But this is absolutely the last thing Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk had in mind.

Instead of tuning up for the season with his teammates, flying around the field and looking for people to hit, Hawk has been taking in the proceedings reluctantly from the sidelines since sustaining what coach Mike McCarthy has described as a "chest sprain" while tackling Cincinnati Bengals tight end Ben Utecht in the preseason opener. Hawk stayed in for a few more plays before leaving the game for good, and he's been grounded since.

After Monday evening's practice, Hawk admitted he has no idea when he will be able to get back to the action.

"I feel good, but they (Packer medical staff) haven't given me an indication of when I'll be back," said Hawk. "For me, it's just definitely one day at a time, trying to do a little more each day and trying to get better. I think I'm going to be all right, but I just don't know when."

This is all unfamiliar territory for Hawk, who never has missed a practice in his two seasons with the Packers nor in his four years at Ohio State. He wears a perplexed smile when he tries to describe how the injury happened.

"I was just in pass coverage and I had a little situation with my chest getting wrapped around the guy," Hawk explains. "Other than that, there's not really a lot going on that I know about. This is a new situation for me, missing practice or missing anything. It's just a spot in my chest that they want to be cautious about. This is a new challenge that I have to face, but I'll get through it."

McCarthy calls Hawk's situation "week-to-week," though he added, "I don't think he'll make it this week" (Friday at Denver).

"Other than that, that's all I know," Hawk added. "They're definitely telling me to take it a day at a time and try to figure it out. They won't predict the future for me. I'm just doing what they let me when I can to get back out there."

And that's not much.

Watching from the sidelines is just not Hawk's thing.

"It's definitely tough not being on the field," he admits. "Just not being out there and not being able to play in the last preseason game, not being able to practice with the guys. You see them out there having fun and working, and I can only just watch it to get what I can and make sure I'm not losing anything. It's tough not being out there with your teammates. But I'm slowly learning how to be smart and take care of my body. I'll be all right."

Watching the action from his new perch, Hawk says he has seen equal parts good and bad with the Packers defense this preseason.

"There's definitely times when our defense has played really well and they've been dominant. Then there's been times when we've had a couple miscommunications in different areas — the linebackers, especially with me in the Cincinnati game, a couple of linebackers had some miscommunication. It's about being consistent. I think we're going to use this preseason to get all those little kinks out of every blown coverage, whatever we can do. This is definitely the time to get it out so we can hit the ground rolling on Sept. 8."

Still, the rehab drags on. As difficult as it is, Hawk knows he has to stifle his instincts and guard against trying to come back too soon.

"Yeah, that's why we have the doctors and trainers around here," Hawk smiles. "They'll do a good job and, whether players like it or not, they're pretty conservative with what they do and they want to take care of players. I respect that and our doctors' decision and what the trainers tell us."

Tom Andrews is a frequent contributor to Packer Report. E-mail him at

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