It wasn’t too long ago that A.J. Hawk was looking forward to Sunday’s game at Cleveland.
Hawk would be lining up on defense against his brother-in-law, Browns quarterback Brady Quinn. Instead, Quinn is on the bench and Hawk is starting but barely playing.
With the Packers playing almost exclusively in their nickel package the last two games, Hawk has been watching Nick Barnett and Brandon Chillar taking the lion’s share of the reps at inside linebacker. Hawk played only nine snaps against Detroit.
"No, I'm not frustrated," Hawk, the fifth pick of the 2006 draft, said on Thursday. "It's just something where I'm going to make sure I do everything I can to stay positive, and when I do get a chance, when I'm out on the field for however many reps that is, to make sure I can do some good things. I'm not going to let it affect the way I approach the game or the way I prepare or anything.”
Hawk, who is making $3.025 million in base salary this year with a cap value of $5.896 million, is set to make $4.124 million next year and $10 million in the final year of the deal, 2011. Hawk, who has not been involved in a turnover play since midway through the 2007 season, has no sacks, no passes defensed, no pressures and is eighth on the team in tackles. If he was upset by the turn of events, he did a good job of hiding it.
"We have a lot of good players here, a lot of good linebackers," Hawk said. "We have certain ways we're trying to match people up, and some weeks I definitely play more than others, so I just have to make sure I'm ready when I'm in there."
With the really big money in Hawk’s six-year, $37.5 million deal about to kick in, Hawk’s future is up in the air. However, he’s more concerned about making his presence felt this year than where he’ll be suiting up next year.
“I’d much rather not be playing as much as I’d like on a winning team and a solid organization than starting and going 2-14,” he said.
Clifton, Lang, Tauscher
Coach Mike McCarthy said “we’re preparing” to have rookie T.J. Lang start at left tackle in place of Chad Clifton on Sunday at Cleveland.
McCarthy watched Clifton’s rehab work on Thursday morning and said he is “getting better.” He put the odds at Clifton practicing on Friday as “50-50.”
Generally, a player has to practice to play, but Clifton is a veteran and he’s been at practice watching Lang execute the game plan. So, there’s some wiggle room.
“Well, it really comes down to where you think the player is, how does he fit into the plan,” McCarthy said. “I don't think there's an exactness to that. But you always want players to practice before they play. I think that's a general rule I would think anybody believes in. But when you deal with players that have played 10 years, it's really based on do you think he's prepared to play. And if I think he's prepared to play, then he'll play, and if I don't, then he won't play.”
Meanwhile, Clifton’s longtime counterpart, right tackle Mark Tauscher, took part in 11-on-11 work the last two days — the first time since being signed after the bye. McCarthy called it a “stretch” that Tauscher would be ready to play Sunday, and wouldn’t even humor a question about next week’s showdown against Minnesota.
“He’s still working his way through, but it looks like he’s moving pretty well,” offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. “I’m not sure where his confidence level is with his knee. I’m sure it takes a little while to get that feeling back that he can handle all the different movements without any kind of tweaking.”
Packers injury report
Out — FB Korey Hall (calf); WR Jordy Nelson (knee). Did not participate — LT Chad Clifton (ankle); WR Greg Jennings (hip); C/G Jason Spitz (back); DE Jarius Wynn (hamstring). Limited participation — LB Brandon Chillar (neck); RT Mark Tauscher (knee). Full participation — FB Quinn Johnson (ankle); DL B.J. Raji (ankle); QB Aaron Rodgers (foot).
Added were Chillar and Jennings. McCarthy didn’t seem worried about either. Johnson, the rookie fullback, was a full participant after being limited on Wednesday.
Browns injury report
Did not participate (illness) — RB Jerome Harrison; OL Alex Mack; DB Anthony Madison; DB Brodney Pool; TE Robert Royal; WR Chansi Stuckey; LB Jason Trusnik; FB Lawrence Vickers; DE Corey Williams. Did not participate (injuries) — K Phil Dawson (calf); TE Steve Heiden (knee). Limited participation — LB David Bowens (knee); DL Kenyon Coleman (groin); WR Joshua Cribbs (knee); OL Rex Hadnot (knee); DB Brandon McDonald (shoulder); NT Shaun Rogers (illness); LB Kamerion Wimbley (illness). Full participation — QB Derek Anderson (ankle); LB Eric Barton (shoulder); DL Robaire Smith (calf); OL Floyd Womack (ankle); P Dave Zastudil (right knee).
There was some good news on the sickness front as defensive stalwarts Wimbley and Rogers returned to the practice facility after missing Wednesday with the flu.
“We have them back and there are no new cases, so that’s a positive,” coach Eric Mangini said. “We’re going to be as careful as we can with this going into the weekend.”
Donald Driver, the Packers’ new all-time receptions leader, is the subject of a new exhibit in the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame that features equipment and the football involved in the record-breaking game.
In the center of the Hall of Fame’s “Today’s Packers” room, an exhibit includes his game jersey, pants, socks, gloves, wrist tape, ankle tape and sleeveless performance shirts. Also included are his shoes, which are pink in association with the NFL’s recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The two footballs involved in tying and surpassing the record also are included, with the 595th reception ball from the game at Minnesota (Oct. 5) and the 596th reception ball from Sunday’s game against Detroit on display.
Driver, who entered Sunday’s game tied with Sterling Sharpe with 595 catches, made seven receptions for 107 yards against the Lions to give him 602 for his career. The record-breaking catch also extended his team record for consecutive games with a catch to 116.
Driver was named the Hall of Fame’s Featured Player of the Week. A separate exhibit contains a game ball autographed by Driver that will go to a lucky winner via a random drawing. Hall of Fame admission is required to see the exhibit and to enter the raffle.
— The Milwaukee Athletic Club will host a Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund Dinner on Wednesday, Nov. 11. Packers President Mark Murphy and Gridiron Greats chairman and Pro Football Hall of Famer Mike Ditka will be the featured guests, and Packers play-by-play announcer Wayne Larrivee will be emcee. Tickets are $85. For information, contact Brad Schendel via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 414-274-0622.
— For all of the Packers’ problems with their offensive line, one strong point has been their short-yardage play. They have converted 6-of-8 opportunities on third-and-2 or less. That 75 percent success rate ranks fifth in the NFL this season. The problem? The eight attempts. Miami is a league-best 17-of-20 (85 percent), Indianapolis is 12-of-15 (80 percent), winless Tampa Bay is 8-of-10 (80 percent) and Minnesota is 15-of-19 (78.9 percent).
— Arizona safety Adrian Wilson is closing in on becoming the fifth defensive back in NFL history with 20 sacks and 20 interceptions. He has 19 sacks and 18 interceptions. LeRoy Butler was the first, and finished his career with 20.5 sacks and 38 interceptions.
— Rodgers aims for fourth game in a row with 100-plus passer rating. Even with an interception last week, he ripped the Lions for a 113.7 rating.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.