Linebacker A.J. Hawk had a hunch after Green Bay's season ended that
he might be looking for a new team.
So he wasn't
surprised after the Packers released him Wednesday following nine
years with the only club he has played with in the NFL.
Hawk is not bitter,
"I wasn't taken
by surprise. I kind of had a feeling it might happen," Hawk said
on a podcast he released Wednesday after the team made the move.
"The Packers actually let me know. ... They've stayed awesome
throughout this whole process, been super classy."
Hawk, a respected
locker room presence, leaves Green Bay with 1,118 tackles, tops in the
franchise since 1975. He appeared in 142 out of a 144 possible
regular-season games with 136 starts since being drafted in the first
round in 2006 out of Ohio State.
But Hawk lost playing
time in the second half of this past season as Green Bay tried to
shore up its run defense.
Green Bay has also
released veteran inside linebacker Brad Jones this offseason. The
Packers' defense improved after giving outside linebacker Clay
Matthews more snaps in the middle and alongside Sam Barrington.
"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,"
general manager Ted Thompson said in a statement. He called Hawk a
"durable and consistent contributor" to the team's success.
Hawk agreed to a pay
cut two years ago after the Packers restructured his deal. He was
scheduled to be paid $3.6 million in 2015 with an $800,000 roster
bonus in 2015.
"I have no
bitterness or animosity toward anyone," Hawk said.
The move might make
inside linebacker even more of a priority in this year's draft. Coach
Mike McCarthy said last month that he still viewed Matthews as an
Hawk said he was
looking forward to his next opportunity in the NFL, but would cherish
his years as a Packer.