Hawk Plays Well for Barnett at MLB

The Green Bay Packers were supposed to be in big trouble after Nick Barnett went down with a season ending knee injury, especially defending the run. But A.J. Hawk stepped into the middle and did the job in a 37-3 domination of the Bears. Get the Inside Slant from the NFL experts at Scout.com.

Middle linebacker Nick Barnett will undergo surgery Thursday for a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

Barnett suffered the season-ending injury in the Packers' 28-27 loss at the Minnesota Vikings on Nov. 9.

"I'm trying to get back on the field next year," Barnett said after Green Bay snapped a two-game losing streak with a 37-3 rout of the visiting Chicago Bears on Sunday.

Barnett, who was walking with crutches, watched the game from a private box at Lambeau Field. He said he faces at least six to eight months of recovery.

Barnett came away impressed with how A.J. Hawk played in his first pro start at middle linebacker Sunday after he was moved from the weak-side spot in the starting lineup.

"He came in and stepped up and did his responsibilities," Barnett said. "Learning pretty much a whole different position is kind of hard in one week, but he was able to come in and execute."

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy on Monday also had high praise for Hawk after watching the game tape.

LB Nick Barnett
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

In relaying the defensive signals that came through on the radio in his helmet, Hawk "quarterbacked" a previously struggling Green Bay defense that held the Bears to 234 total yards and nine first downs. Chicago converted only three of 12 third downs and was dominated in time of possession, 37:28 to 22:32.

"I thought A.J. played very well," said McCarthy, who cited Hawk's smooth ability to communicate calls to teammates on the field. "Didn't even look like we missed a beat with the boundary communication and so forth, and he was productive.

"I thought he did a great job playing downhill in his gap responsibility in the run game, and he was productive in the passing game."

Hawk tied fellow linebacker Brandon Chillar, who started at the weak-side spot, for the team lead with seven tackles in the game.

After there were doubts earlier in the season that Ryan Grant would be healthy enough to handle more than 20 carries a game, he hit the coaches' target number of 25 on Sunday and showed that he might be all the way back after suffering a nagging hamstring injury in the preseason.

Grant had a season-best day in the Packers' 37-3 annihilation of the visiting Chicago Bears. He turned his 25 carries into 145 yards, a gaudy per-rush average of 5.8 yards, and scored a touchdown.

Grant had only one 100-yard rushing day in Green Bay's first nine games, but his production has picked up in recent weeks. He's rushed for at least 75 yards in the last six games.

"I think Ryan and really the whole run game is in tune, and I've really felt that way probably the last three or four weeks," said McCarthy, whose team battered the Bears for a season-high 200 rushing yards. "The most important thing I think for Ryan was he got to 25 attempts, and that's where he needs to be."

Grant has carried the ball at least 25 times just three times this season, but all have come in the last five outings. …

Following a script from his first two years as the team's coach, McCarthy will have the Packers on a winter schedule during the practice week for the rest of the season.

The premise of the schedule alterations – practice and meeting times both are cut back 15 minutes – after the 10th game of the season is to preserve the players' bodies for the stretch run and keep them focused on what needs to be accomplished. Green Bay is in a three-way tie for the NFC North lead with the Bears and the Minnesota Vikings, all with 5-5 records.

"You're getting to that point in the season where you have to be conscious of wear and tear," McCarthy said.

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