Thursday, March 8, 2012
Audio: Packers' A.J. Hawk on 2011
By Kevin Seifert
We noted earlier this week that Green Bay Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk had cut his legendary hair as part of the startup to "Hawks Locks for Kids," a charitable effort that will encourage the donation of long hair to groups that use them to create wigs for children undergoing treatment for cancer and other diseases.
Hawk appeared Thursday on ESPN 540 in Milwaukee to promote the cause, but he also engaged in what I thought was a fair conversation about his underwhelming season with the Packers in 2011. He missed two games because of a calf injury and finished with a career-low 84 tackles. Backup D.J. Smith was impressive as his short-term replacement, and there have been calls for the Packers to move on just one year after signing Hawk to a new five-year contract.
Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote that the contract "is by far the worst" ever enacted by Packers general manager Ted Thompson and suggested the Packers erred by releasing veteran Nick Barnett and committing to Hawk.
Speaking Thursday, Hawk acknowledged his 2011 season started slowly but felt he was playing better by the end of it.
"I'm sure stat-wise this year it probably doesn't look like I had as good a year as I had in the past," Hawk said. " I felt like early on in the year I definitely missed more tackles than I would like and let the running backs catch the ball out of the backfield on me and that definitely wasn't acceptable. But me and [inside linebackers coach Winston] Moss kind of worked on a technique of how we were going to change that up, and I think for the most part, toward the end, I felt like I was getting a lot better."
Indeed, Hawk posted two of his three-best games in terms of tackles in Weeks 15 and 16. And to be fair, Hawk wasn't the only Packers defender who missed too many tackles in 2011. Coach Mike McCarthy pledged at the NFL scouting combine that "we're going to be a better tackling football team" in 2012, a fair warning for Hawk and about a half-dozen of his teammates.