Of course, the player who has been the steadiest through the years is none other than A.J. Hawk.
As a popular, reliable linebacker, Hawk has been there game in, game out, year-after-year. Though many are disappointed that he hasn’t lived up to the #5 overall pick in the draft, he’s a Super Bowl champion who has played extremely well at times and followed it by disappearing in other games.
Measuring reliability and leadership is impossible, but those are the two most important intangibles Hawk brings to the field and the locker room. His pass defense improved last season while his run defense took a hit. We could surely attribute those statistics to the fact that the defensive line fell apart in the last half of the 2013 season, and with it Hawk’s effectiveness also took a hit.
This is a crucial season for Hawk. He took a pay cut last season to re-sign with the Packers and franchise fans can only hope that he has a breakout year in 2014. Improvement at inside linebacker will be a crucial position in 2014 if the Packers defense is going to take that next step forward. Hawk will play a big part in that.
In eight years with the Packers, Hawk has played in 126 games, recording 18.5 sacks and 9 interceptions that he’s returned 121 yards. He has also recorded 574 tackles and 258 assists.
You can also throw in the fact that Hawk has missed just two games over the course of those eight years.
John Maxymuk, the author of “Packers by the Numbers: Jersey Numbers and the Players Who Wore them,” wrote about Carter. Here is what he had to say:
Replacing a legend in sports is never easy, and it is even more difficult when the legend hasn’t yet left the stage. Jim Brown retired as the greatest ball carrier of all time in 1965, and was replaced by unknown Leroy Kelly who, while not quite measuring up to Brown, went on to his own Hall of Fame career. Aging Joe Montana got seriously hurt and was replaced by Steve Young. Young played well, but when Montana returned two years later, the 49ers had to trade him out of town so they could move on with the younger man. Trading Montana could not ease the bitterness and Young was never fully embraced in San Francisco, even after winning a Super Bowl.
Jim Carter was rom St. Paul and played fullback at the University of Minnesota. He came to the Packers in the third round of the 1970 draft and was also drafted by the World Hockey League’s Minnesota Fighting Saints.
He was shifted to linebacker in training camp and when Dave Robinson was injured early in the year, Jim replaced him as starting outside linebacker. When Robinson returned the next season, new coach Dan Devine moved Carter to middle linebacker and gave him the tougher job of replacing 14-year vet Ray Nitschke, the man voted best middle linebacker of the first 50 years of the NFL just the year before. The trouble was that Nitschke didn’t feel that he’d been beaten out for his position on the field but that his job was simply handed to Carter.
The first couple of seasons with the Packers were difficult for Carter trying to break into the league in Nitschke’ shadow.
He played in a turbulent and mostly unsuccessful era. There was the undisciplined disorganization of Dan Devine, the players’ strike of 1974 during which he crossed the picket line to report to training camp, and the on-the-job training of Bart Starr. He played for only two winning clubs and one playoff team in his eight years as a Packer, and lost another whole season to injury. Yet his fear seems unreasonable because the other problem in following a legend is that, unless you are a great player, too, you are quickly forgotten.
Jim always was a proud man, not afraid to voice his opinion.
He now says of Nitschke that “I probably knew then but just wouldn’t admit what a great player he was. The fans loved him. He deserved the accolades. I was jealous.”
He was quick to add that Butkus was a better linebacker.