Inside linebacker was the bleakest Packers’ position group.
Now it’s the thinnest.
After the Packers cut Brad Jones and A.J. Hawk, the team now only has Sam Barrington at the position. In two seasons as a pro, Barrington has started only seven games.
But even with the cloud of uncertainty hanging over 1265 Lombardi Ave., these were moves the Packers had to make.
Jones was a guy that most people thought could develop into something worthwhile. He had a career-high 60 tackles after starting a career-high 12 games last year. But even those things couldn’t prevent the avalanche of boneheaded plays coupled with his slow legs.
Even coach Mike McCarthy was more comfortable with the unproven Barrington over a guy that was coming off a career season. And that was after watching Jones look like a lost a JV player in the season opener at Seattle.
Hawk is a little more interesting. It’s harder to rip a guy that has been with the organization for nine years.
And granted, I’ve taken plenty of shots at the guy. But ever since he left Ohio State as central Ohio’s All-American kid, he has been held hostage by being drafted fifth overall in 2006.
No matter what he did — with long or short hair — people, myself included, always attached and compared his Packers exploits to his draft position. And that’s really not fair.
If you were to ask general manager Ted Thompson what he thought he was getting back in 2006, he’d likely tell you a dynamic playmaker that eats, breathes and sleeps football. Most of that is true. However, Hawk was never dynamic. A dynamic linebacker is Justin Houston. A dynamic linebacker is Terrell Suggs. And yes, a dynamic linebacker is Clay Matthews.
But even though Hawk had trouble getting from sideline to sideline and showed a glowing ineffectiveness when asked to defend the pass, he displayed a mastery of the playbook. His leadership was the reason he held a Packers’ locker so long. And since he was the quarterback of the defense, that’s why he still has a heartbeat as a professional football player.
Many people were frustrated by Hawk. But let’s not forget that he took a pay cut to stay in Green Bay. And he never was a cancer in the organization nor the community.
And it’s because of all the sacrifices he made to stay in Green Bay that will make him a future Packers Hall of Famer. Hawk is the Packers’ all-time leading tackler with 1,118. I realize that many of those came when he was trailing the play or that it’s just a celebration of longevity.
But my uncle used to say that ⅔ of life is just showing up and Hawk played nine years. That’s a long time for a linebacker that knows he’s going to be in a collision on nearly every play.
It was the end of the line for both guys. Is the depth chart noticeably thin now? Yes. But keeping both guys wasn’t the answer either. The Packers save $7.25 million by handing out both pink slips.
That may not be enough to retain both Randall Cobb and Bryan Bulaga but cutting Jones and Hawk wasn’t about money.
It was about production. It’s why Jay Cutler is sweating in Chicago even though he has an immovable Sears Tower as a contract. But that’s the beauty of the NFL. If you can’t play, you’re out. Teams have no time for a farewell tour ala Derek Jeter, and that’s why dimming NFL stars must always be on constant alert.
Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn