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Packers cut veteran A.J. Hawk

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Packers' overhaul at inside linebacker continued Wednesday with the release of A.J. Hawk, one of the longest-tenured players on their defense.

The move comes less than a week after veteran Brad Jones was released. Hawk and Jones opened last season as their two starting inside linebackers. It came as no surprise given that coach Mike McCarthy said last week at the NFL scouting combine that inside linebacker was their greatest need. The move frees up $3.5 million in salary-cap space. Jones' release gave the Packers another $3.75 million in room under the cap.

It ends a nine-year run for Hawk, who was the fifth overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft. He leaves as the franchise's career tackles leader with 1,118. His best season was the Packers' Super Bowl year of 2010, when he was selected to his only Pro Bowl.

"A.J. is a consummate Packer and we are grateful for all that he has given and how he represented the organization over the past nine seasons," Packers general manager Ted Thompson said in a statement. "He was a durable and consistent contributor to our success, but more importantly, he is a great person and teammate. The Packers are grateful for all that he has done on the field and in the community. We wish A.J., his wife Laura, and the rest of their family all the best."

Hawk's playing time dwindled as the season went on, and although he said it wasn't because of injury, he underwent surgery shortly after the season to remove bone spurs in his ankle.

In a video released Wednesday, Hawk said he doesn't believe the injury affected his performance on the field.

"You could almost feel it in the air throughout the second half of the season," Hawk said. "I've been preparing for it for a while now mentally, but now it's real."

Officially, Hawk's designation will be waived/failed physical.

This is the second time Hawk has been released by the Packers. They cut him in 2011 but re-signed him one day later to a more salary-cap-friendly deal. According to a source familiar with the situation, there was no talk of anything like that this time, meaning Hawk's tenure with the Packers is over.

Hawk, 31, praised the Packers for how they handled his release. He said he was notified last week while he was on a fundraising cruise for his alma mater, Ohio State, but the Packers told him they would hold off until this week to announce the move.

"The Packers were awesome about it," he said. "I have no bitterness and no animosity toward anyone."

Hawk said he has no intention of retiring.

"I'm ready for some new opportunities," he said. "I feel good. Hopefully I get a chance somewhere else."