The Green Bay Packers are 3-2 early in the 2013 NFL season and are just a half game out of first in the NFC North division. However, the team has had to overcome a number of injury issues as they have reached this point of the schedule.
The team has had to deal with multiple injuries through training camp and the early portion of the season to some very key players, but you can bet that the team is very happy that they kept two veterans on their roster.
I'm speaking of inside linebacker A.J. Hawk and kicker Mason Crosby.
Both players had to take pay cuts before the season just to stay with the team.
It's rare when a player takes a pay cut and plays better than they have in the past. But both Hawk and Crosby have done just that.
Hawk was the fifth pick of the 2006 NFL draft, and a lot was expected of him. Instead of becoming a linebacker in the mode of someone like Patrick Willis of the 49ers, Hawk has not exactly flashed to that level. Not to say he's had a bad career.
For one, Hawk is very reliable. The former Ohio State Buckeye has played in 110 of a possible 112 regular-season games. Hawk has also led the Packers in tackles in four of the seven years he has played with the team.
Hawk also was named to the Pro Bowl in 2010, which was his finest season up until this year.
But the problem that people saw regarding Hawk's performance was that he did not make a lot of big plays. For instance, Hawk only had two forced fumbles in his career going into this season.
But Hawk has been steady and sort of flies under the radar. Going into the 2013 season, Hawk had 13.5 sacks in his career and eight interceptions. Not breathtaking numbers in a seven-year career, but he was almost always available to play.
That has not been the case with some of the linebackers who have played next to him in the past. Examples are Nick Barnett and Desmond Bishop. This season it was Brad Jones, who has a hamstring injury.
In 2013, Hawk once again leads the Packers in tackles with 42. No. 50 also has three sacks and one fumble recovery. The game he played on Sunday versus the Baltimore Ravens may have been the finest of his career.
Hawk had 10 tackles (five for a loss) and also had the three sacks.
Bottom line, Hawk is once again playing at a Pro Bowl level.
So is Crosby, who was named NFC special teams player of the week after the win over the Detroit Lions in Week 5, after he made all five of his field-goal attempts.
It has been a long spring and summer for Crosby, as the Packers brought in a number of kickers to compete with him, the most notable being Giorgio Tavecchio.
The reason the Packers brought all that competition in was because of Crosby's performance last season, when he made just 63.6 percent of his field goals, as he was just 21-of-33.
Before this season, Crosby had made 76.8 percent of his career field-goal attempts (152-of-198), with his best season being in 2011, when he made 85.7 percent of his kicks (24-of-28).
But Crosby withstood all the competition and has had a stellar 2013 campaign so far. No. 2 has made 93 percent of his field-goal attempts so far this season (13-of-14) and has been virtually automatic.
Even from longer distances. Crosby has made both kicks over 50 yards and has made four out of five from over 40 yards out.
There are still 11 games to go on the 2013 NFL schedule for the Packers, and time will tell how Hawk and Crosby will do in those games, but so far both have performed much better than expected to many in Packer Nation.
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