Hawk lands in Cincinnati

Packers' all-time leader in tackles signed two-year deal

Almost from the moment the Green Bay Packers told him they were cutting him after nine seasons, A.J. Hawk started to think about the Cincinnati Bengals.

On Wednesday, his you-can-go-home-again scenario officially became a reality.

The Packers’ all-time leader in tackles signed a two-year, $3.25 million deal ($500,000 guaranteed) with the Bengals, the team he grew up rooting for in Centerville, Ohio and while playing his college ball at Ohio State.

“You never completely take your eye off the team you grew up watching,” Hawk told reporters in Cincinnati Wednesday. “I know of the talent they have here. They have studs everywhere you look. That was a huge factor. I wanted to go to a place and win and this locker room definitely has that.

“I can imagine what the city and the whole state would be like if we won the Super Bowl. That’s what I want to do. Work on getting a ring. Everyone here would go crazy. I envision that in the future hopefully.”

Hawk’s family lived only 45 minutes from Paul Brown Stadium when he was a kid, and he wore a Bengals Tim Krumrie jersey while competing in the Ohio state championship Punt, Pass, and Kick competition at Riverfront Stadium, according to Bengals.com.

Hawk fills a need in the Bengals’ 4-3 defense, and he could play either inside at middle (Mike) linebacker or outside at Sam or Will, depending on how the incumbents at those positions pan out. Vontaze Burfict, the starter at Will linebacker, underwent microfracture knee surgery in January, while Sam starter Emmanuel Lamur just finished his first year as a starter. The Bengals could also play Hawk inside and shift recently re-signed Rey Maualuga to Will linebacker.

Hawk played in a 4-3 defense in college and for his first three NFL seasons in ex-Packers defensive coordinator Bob Sanders’ scheme, so he doesn’t think it’ll be a difficult transition to a 4-3 defense after playing the last six years in Dom Capers’ 3-4.

“We’re all trying to tackle the guy with the ball. That’s it,” Hawk said. “I don’t get caught up in positions. They are different, you have different responsibilities and different setups, but a ‘backer’s a ‘backer. Football’s football. I don’t want to complicate it.”