Ha Ha Clinton-Dix expects to be ‘more free’ in Packers’ new D

By Rob Demovsky, ESPN Staff Writer

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Whatever anyone thinks of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix’s play last season — and there seem to be plenty who took issue with it — the former Pro Bowl safety should be in better position to make a bigger impact this season.

At least that was his feeling after one day of minicamp practice.

Clinton-Dix skipped the voluntary organized team activities and returned to the Green Bay Packers this week for the first time since late May, when he left three weeks into the offseason program. Still, he got enough of a glimpse to feel like his role will be different this season under new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.

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“I’ll definitely be a lot more free in this defense for sure,” Clinton-Dix said. “We’ve got to see what it looks like come game day. We can talk about it now but game day we’ll be talking about some totally different s—. We’ve just got to all wait and see how it plays out. But I’m excited about the new defense, I’m loving it right now. I’m loving it.”

That didn’t seem to be the case last season, when former defensive coordinator Dom Capers used Clinton-Dix as more of a safety valve — keeping him far off the line of scrimmage to guard against big plays as the Packers struggled in that area. In the process, his opportunity to make big plays lessened. After a five-interception, one-forced-fumble season in 2016 led to his first Pro Bowl appearance, he picked off three passes last season but didn’t make the same kind of impact.

He became something of a target for fans, who criticized him on social media and even questioned his effort late last season after the Packers were eliminated from playoff contention.

Months later, he’s still being forced to defend himself. He took to Twitter last weekend with a series of posts.

“I was just tweeting,” Clinton-Dix said when asked what prompted it. “Just can’t say too much [or] what I really want to say, so I’ve got to be careful. Sometimes I have to delete stuff.”

His decision to skip OTAs — even for a reason as valid as the death of his godmother — didn’t help public perception. He also didn’t do much to dispel the idea that he’s unhappy with his contract situation.

It’s a potentially career-changing year for Clinton-Dix. He’s in the final year of his original contract. He’s in the fifth-year option that all first-round picks since 2011 have had. The Packers exercised that option, which will pay him $5.957 million this season. He said he won’t make the mistake of putting too much pressure on himself in a contract year.

“My film is already on tape. I could not play a down and get a new contract and be fine,” Clinton-Dix said. “Stats speak for themselves, everything speaks for themselves. I’ve just got to go out there and continue getting better, continue maximizing my opportunity and winning my one-on-ones.

“I’m going to leave it at that, man. I know my value to this defense, and it’s up to you all to see. I guess we’ll see when we play Chicago and on from there. I’m excited about this opportunity I have in front of me right now going into my fifth year. Like I said, the sky’s the limit for me. Just watch, just watch.”