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Packers linebacker shuffle leaves less snaps for veteran A.J. Hawk

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GREEN BAY, Wisconsin — A.J. Hawk doesn't want the attention.

The Green Bay Packers veteran linebacker has shied away from it when he has been playing well. He certainly doesn't think his decline in playing time should become a focus, either.

"It's dumb to talk about me. We're 10-3," Hawk said Thursday. "I was asked ... to just address it, but I didn't want to make anything about me. I shouldn't be a story line."

The thing is, Hawk has been around for nine years. He has been a mainstay of the Packers' defense and a respected member of the locker room. It is noticeable when a player who has been on the field so often gets just eight snaps in Green Bay's 43-37 win last over Atlanta.

Coach Mike McCarthy has said Hawk's lack of snaps isn't entirely out of the norm. The Packers this year have espoused a "more personnel, less scheme" approach on defense that gets more players involved.

There is always concern about overplaying guys, defensive coordinator Dom Capers said.

"I think A.J.'s fine now. I think he's better right now with the fact that he hasn't played 70 plays the last couple weeks," Capers said. "I think that will bode well for us moving forward."

Toss aside for a moment the second half of the 43-37 victory Monday over Atlanta, which was a clunker defensively. The players say that's not going to diminish the confidence built up in the last month.

The defense took on a different look when Clay Matthews, normally an outside linebacker, played inside more against the Chicago Bears on Nov. 9, mainly when Green Bay was using four linebackers and five defensive backs. Still, in that game Hawk played all 70 defensive snaps.

In the Falcons game, the Packers adjusted after Julio Jones had a 79-yard reception on the first play of the second half. That forced Green Bay into playing more double coverage, which changed the game plan, according to Capers.

Sam Barrington, who is neighbors with Hawk in the locker room, has also seen his playing time increase inside. He has shown bursts of speed in stopping the run, leveling tailbacks with violent hits.

PHOTO: FILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014 file photo, Green Bay Packers' A.J. Hawk waits for the snap during the second half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers in Green Bay, Wis. A.J. Hawk doesn’t want the attention. But it’s hard not to notice when the nine-year veteran isn’t playing linebacker for the Green Bay Packers. The defense has improved overall the last month. Hawk’s snaps have decreased of late, Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer, File)
FILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014 file photo, Green Bay Packers' A.J. Hawk waits for the snap during the second half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers in Green Bay, Wis. A.J. Hawk doesn’t want the attention. But it’s hard not to notice when the nine-year veteran isn’t playing linebacker for the Green Bay Packers. The defense has improved overall the last month. Hawk’s snaps have decreased of late, Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer, File)

Barrington played 18 snaps in the Chicago game. Against Atlanta, Barrington was in on 44 plays. He has started the last two games in place of Hawk.

"I guess we just understand that it's part of the game. I'm just trying to continue to do my best job to help this team out, and it's evident he's doing the same thing," Barrington said.

Capers said Hawk can still play in schemes with five defensive backs in a pinch. He also likes Matthews' versatility in the middle.

For the most part, Hawk plays in the 3-4 base defense. Patiently answering questions at his locker, the stand-up Hawk talked team first.

"I mean I've had less reps than I had earlier in the year, but it's definitely nothing I haven't gone through since I've been here," Hawk said. "I've kind of gone through the game being in and out, in and out, different packages since I got here nine years ago."

Capers said things could still change, depending on what the Packers see with opposing offenses.

"When you get up 31-7, it becomes almost a two-minute drill with four downs and you're not going to be playing a lot of your base defense, so that skews things," Capers said. "The run game wasn't an issue Monday night. You take away those two quarterback scrambles, they averaged 3.1 yards per rush, which we'll take any time."

Hawk said he isn't hurt, and that he felt like he could do the same things he did a couple years ago. He has not changed his approach in how he prepares.

"That's kind of been what I've done my whole life is keep going, keep your head down, keep working, and you don't need to sit there and whine about it, talk about it," Hawk said.

NOTES: RB Eddie Lacy (hip) was a limited participant for a second straight day. Lacy said he got hurt after planting off his left leg. Asked if he was optimistic about Sunday, Lacy said "it depends on how the rest of the week goes." ... CB Davon House missed a second straight practice with a right shoulder injury.


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