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Wednesday, September 24, 2008 3:05:39 AM(UTC)
[img_r]http://graphics.jsonline.com/graphics/packer/img/news/sep08/shawk0923.jpg[/img_r]Green Bay - He is solid. Dependable. Durable. We know this about third-year linebacker A.J. Hawk. No. 50 is a sure tackler rarely caught out of position who has played with maturity even though he is still relatively young.
Teammates have nothing bad to say about the guy. Coaches take comfort in knowing what they have in Hawk and count on it every week. So its hard to figure out what more Hawk can do short of making the kind of plays that might get him a little more attention.
Linebacker all the way around it is under-appreciated, Hawks teammate Nick Barnett said. Im not talking linebacker that lines up at defensive end and blitzes. I dont even consider that linebacker they get a lot of credit and the things that get a lot of attention in the NFL are sacks and interceptions.
Thats not us. Were kind of in-between to prevent run and pass.
While Hawk has been one of the leading tacklers since he got to Green Bay, the door is for him to push himself to be a little more than what he is. The standards are high for the fifth overall pick in the 2006 draft. The expectations are higher still because hes fortunate enough to play behind an exceptionally talented defensive line.
A.J. has been fine. Hes does a very solid job, very adequate job, said linebackers coach Winston Moss. I have very, very high standards for A.J. and when I say adequate, hes doing well right now. He could do better.
By that, Moss is referring to impact plays. Hawk now aims to make more of those.
Impact plays could be anything from a sack to a tackle for loss on third down, Hawk said. You always want to make more plays. I didnt make a whole lot of them last year.
To date, Hawk has 6.5 sacks, three interceptions and 10 passes defensed in his career. There are chances for Hawk to make waves and change the momentum of the game in favor of the defense. He demonstrated that at Detroit.
Hawk got his second sack of the game with pure determination. The running back had cut him down earlier, stopping Hawk short of the quarterback. So on the next pursuit, Hawk jumped over the back to slide in for the sack.
Hes done a good job of improving his intensity of play so far, Moss said. I think he definitely think hes starting off at a higher point this year.
Packers general manager Ted Thompson said that if Hawk keeps playing the way he is, hell enjoy a long career in the NFL. He seems less concerned about the big splash plays that lead to Pro Bowls.
To play that position the way that he and Nick play it, theyre very impactful already, Thompson said. Maybe a few more interceptions, pick up a fumble (could help) but theres the example of that sack he made over in Detroit. When he just dives over everybody, I mean theres not a lot of people that can do stuff like that.
Perhaps Some players seem more focused when theyre playing with an injury. Moss experienced that himself in his 11 years in the NFL and believes the same is for Hawk.
Ive had a chest injury so its something I can relate to, Moss said. And I knew my body and I knew what I could do and I blocked it out . . . Its actually just toughness to put yourself in a position to make extra plays without obviously trying to irritate or re-injure it. The A.J. situation is very, very similar.
Hawk suffered a strained chest muscle early in training camp. It was newsworthy because it was the first practice he had missed in six years (including college). Yet he was ready for the season and has never missed a game 35 and counting.
Hes one of those workout guys we have to open the workout room early for, Thompson said. Hes very diligent about taking care of his body and quite frankly he kind of talked all of us in to playing in the first game. We were a little bit hesitant but his insistence that he would be OK, he finally kind of turned the medical people, myself and coach around.
Hawk is sort of a health nut he sleeps in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber to increase his red blood cell count and enhance his endurance.
I just try to take it seriously, how to take care of your body, Hawk said. You see the guys we had here in training camp that got cut, so staying in this game is really hard, I know. Id like to play for a while.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008 6:39:01 AM(UTC)
That he's trying to push himself even harder to become even better than he is now, is just crazy. The man is, in my eyes, one of the greatest LBs in the league, especially together with Barnett, they're a sick duo.
If he can actually manage to make more impact plays like that, he'll be one of the best that ever played imo.
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