MILWAUKEE (AP) 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, either.
''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 outside linebacker.
Hawk said he was looking forward to his next opportunity in the NFL, but would cherish his years as a Packer.
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