Rob Demovsky, ESPN Staff Writer
GREEN BAY, Wis. — When Ha Ha Clinton-Dix showed up for the start of the offseason program on April 17, there was no indication that his attendance — voluntary as it is — would be incomplete.
The former Pro Bowl safety, who like most players on the Green Bay Packers’ defense was coming off a disappointing season, sounded all-in with new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.
As such, it came as something of a surprise when the offseason program turned to Phase 3 and Clinton-Dix was nowhere to be found. The first day of public and media access last month brought no questions about it. In the two days of open practices that followed in the ensuing weeks, more questions — but few answers — have emerged.
Finally on Monday, the start of the final week of OTAs, Packers coach Mike McCarthy offered this when asked about Clinton-Dix’s absence:
“There’s really no need to get into attendance,” McCarthy said. “We’re having a really good offseason. Ha Ha, just like a number of veterans, when we start the offseason program, we go through everybody’s individual schedule. Things do come up, so he’s had a personal situation that he’s attended to, so I have no concerns.”
Text messages to Clinton-Dix and messages left for his agent, Pat Dye Jr., have not been returned.
Next week could be telling as it relates to Clinton-Dix’s attendance. That’s when the Packers hold their only mandatory event of the offseason: the three-day minicamp that runs June 12-14. Even if McCarthy excuses some veterans, as he has in recent years, Clinton-Dix almost certainly won’t meet the requirements. In the past, McCarthy has let players with five years of NFL experience skip the camp. Clinton-Dix has four.
The former first-round pick is signed through the end of this season and would play this year under the fifth-year option on his rookie deal, at a salary of $5.957 million.
Still, Clinton-Dix’s absence could be, at least in part, contract-driven. He switched agents, moving to Dye, within the past year, presumably to help with a new deal once his rookie contract runs out. He no doubt would like a contract extension commensurate with those of the top safeties in the league. The sum of his rookie contract, including the option year, puts him 32nd among safeties in average salary per year, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Eric Berry of the Chiefs is the NFL’s highest-paid safety, at $13 million per season. Clinton-Dix is not among the players who have workout bonuses in their contracts, so he isn’t losing any money.
“I’m excited about the scheme and things that are going on inside of that [play]book,” Clinton-Dix said in April “It’s all smiles from me. I’m excited about it. I’m excited to work. I’m excited to be here.”
Clinton-Dix could be one of the most important players in Pettine’s plans, especially considering that the Packers let veteran safety Morgan Burnett leave in free agency to sign with the Steelers.
Clinton-Dix’s 2017 performance did not come close to the production he had in 2016, when he made his first Pro Bowl. But there were so many issues across the defense — all of which led to Dom Capers’ firing after nine seasons — that Clinton-Dix said he spent more time trying to prevent big plays than he did trying to make them.
“Last year, we had to do what was best for the team,” Clinton-Dix said in April. “I wasn’t involved in a lot, but like I said, last year was last year. I didn’t meet the standards I set for myself personally. If you ask a guy from a different team, three picks and 80 tackles with not being involved in the scheme, I think they would think they had a great year. But with a guy like me with the high expectations I set for myself, I expect more, and I expect more from myself this year. I have to work on a lot of things to get better at, and I’m excited about it.”
One current Packers player who has been in contact with Clinton-Dix expressed no concerns about his teammate’s absence. The teammate told ESPN that Clinton-Dix has been working on football and has been in regular contact with the team even though he hasn’t been at OTAs.
When asked if he is concerned about Clinton-Dix’s absence, defensive passing-game coordinator Joe Whitt said: “Not at all. It’s voluntary. So the guys that are here are the guys that we’re worried about.”