A.J. Hawk

Hawk has stepped in and stepped up for the Packers, this year.

I’ll be honest. I’ve never been a big fan of Green Bay Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk.

He’s simply never lived up to his status as the fifth-overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. No All Pros, no Pro Bowls, never developed into a big-time playmaker.

After he didn’t play a snap in the Packers season-opening win over the Philadelphia Eagles, Hawk essentially said he wanted a trade. That’s a possibility we were completely open to.

And then linebackers started to drop like flies. Nick Barnett was lost of the season. Brandon Chillar soon followed.

Hawk went from afterthought to the Packers main man in the middle, which was a concern for several reasons. Hawk has never been very good in coverage. He’s consistently looked slow-footed and sometimes takes bad angles on tackles.

I’m not above admitting when I’m wrong.

Hawk still demonstrates those aggravating characteristics from time to time, but where would the Packers be without him?

He’s not a world beater and he’s never going to be Ray Lewis, but the Packers very well could have been up shit creek if it weren’t for A.J. Hawk, this season. Trading Hawk could turn out to be one of the best moves Ted Thompson didn’t make.

Hawk has been a solid presence for the Packers defense, even more so when you consider the other options currently available to the Packers at inside linebacker.

Robert Francois? Matt Wilhelm? Yikes!

Even though he didn’t play the first game, Hawk still finished the season with 111 tackles — the highest total since his rookie season and tops on the team. Hawk also had career highs in interceptions (three) and passes defended (10).

More importantly, he held the Packers linebacking core together when the team lost two stalwarts. Through it all, he’s kept a level head.

“I’d rather fly under radar,” Hawk said. “I have seen it more now in the league: If you want attention, you can get it — good or bad. I don’t crave what comes with it because I know it’s not real. I would rather win. Right now, we’re going to the Super Bowl, so everyone is back on (the bandwagon). We were the ‘Worst Team in America,’ after Detroit beat us. It’s not real, man.”

Although Hawk has reestablished himself as an integral part of the Packers defense, it will be interesting to see what happens with him in the offseason.

Hawk is due $10 million next season and he knows the Packers aren’t going to keep him at that number. The team will either have to renegotiate his deal or let him go.

I, for one, am damn glad the Green Bay Packers have A.J. Hawk right now, though.

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