Fi­nan­cial fac­tors in­volved in ab­sence

Packer Plus - - NEWS - Michael Co­hen Mil­wau­kee Jour­nal Sen­tinel USA TO­DAY NET­WORK - WIS­CON­SIN

Green Bay — On the first day of the Green Bay Pack­ers’ manda­tory mini­camp, the fa­mil­iar No. 21 jersey of their enig­matic young safety bounded through the de­fen­sive back­field for the first time in more than a month.

Its owner, Ha Ha Clin­ton-Dix, elected to skip all of this year’s or­ga­nized team ac­tiv­i­ties while at­tend­ing to what coach Mike McCarthy re­peat­edly de­scribed as a per­sonal is­sue, the type of thing that sur­faces for all of us from time to time. Word even­tu­ally sur­faced that Clin­tonDix had ex­pe­ri­enced a death in the fam­ily: His god­mother, Alisa Dorsett, died af­ter suf­fer­ing a heart at­tack around the time he grad­u­ated from the Univer­sity of Alabama in early May.

“I had fam­ily is­sues,” Clin­ton-Dix said af­ter a prac­tice at Ray Nitschke Field.

But then some­thing in­ter­est­ing hap­pened. Clin­ton-Dix, speak­ing to a group of re­porters, was asked if the fam­ily sit­u­a­tion was the only rea­son he stayed off the field in Green Bay. He nod­ded his head in the af­fir­ma­tive, glanced di­rectly into a video cam­era and winked.

On May 1, 2017, for­mer gen­eral man­ager Ted Thomp­son made the ob­vi­ous de­ci­sion to ex­er­cise the fifth-year op­tion on Clin­ton-Dix’s rookie con­tract, a pro­vi­sion that ap­plies only to for­mer firstround picks. In do­ing so, the Pack­ers guar­an­teed Clin­ton-Dix a larger pay­day for the 2018 sea­son — ap­prox­i­mately $5.9 mil­lion — and also post­poned his op­por­tu­nity to ne­go­ti­ate a long-term ex­ten­sion. Rather than hit­ting the open mar­ket this past March, when his orig­i­nal rookie con­tract would have ex­pired, Clin­ton-Dix is now sched­uled to be­come a free agent next spring.

Which all boils down to this: In ad­di­tion to the death of his god­mother, which cer­tainly war­ranted some time to grieve, the other rea­son Clin­ton-Dix skipped OTAs was the lack of fi­nan­cial mo­ti­va­tion to at­tend. Un­like many of his vet­eran team­mates, who earned sched­uled pay­days sim­ply by show­ing up, Clin­ton-Dix didn’t have any work­out bonuses in his con­tract.

“It’s not meant for me to be here,” Clin­ton-Dix said. “I don’t have a sign­ing bonus to be here, so that def­i­nitely played a big role in me not be­ing here, hon­estly, along with my god­mother not mak­ing it. It’s kind of like, I can just stay home with my fam­ily and en­joy my fam­ily time while I have the down­time.

“(This year) I’m ex­cited not to have that bonus in there though, hon­estly, be­cause I would have def­i­nitely been here for my money. … It gave me that flex­i­bil­ity to be able to go home when I wanted to go home, whereas a lot of guys get paid $500K to be here and you can’t miss noth­ing but three days. You can’t buy time. So just to have that freedom to be able to get away, I think that was a plus not hav­ing it, hon­estly.”

Dorsett, 49, suf­fered a heart at­tack while in Tuscaloosa, Ala., to watch Clin­ton-Dix grad­u­ate with a de­gree in crim­i­nal jus­tice, some­thing he had been work­ing to­ward by tak­ing classes dur­ing the off-sea­son. Dorsett passed away two days be­fore the cer­e­mony, ac­cord­ing to an obit­u­ary in the Or­lando Sen­tinel, and Clin­ton-Dix de­cided to re­main with his fam­ily for the next few weeks.

Clin­ton-Dix re­turned to Wis­con­sin ear­lier this month to par­tic­i­pate in a char­ity golf tour­na­ment ben­e­fit­ting the Alex’s Lemon­ade Stand Foun­da­tion. He also posted pic­tures from a lo­cal fish­ing trip with fel­low safety Josh Jones.

The magic of tech­nol­ogy af­forded Clin­ton-Dix an op­por­tu­nity to fol­low the de­fense from afar, be it in Alabama, Florida or other parts of Wis­con­sin. Each day, mem­bers of the Pack­ers’ video de­part­ment up­loaded prac­tice footage to the team-is­sued iPads, and Clin­tonDix said he watched film to be­gin grasp­ing de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Mike Pet­tine’s new scheme.

If and when he had ques­tions, Clin­ton-Dix con­tacted Pet­tine, de­fen­sive pass game co­or­di­na­tor Joe Whitt Jr. or de­fen­sive qual­ity con­trol coach Ryan Dow­nard for guid­ance.

“Any­time I needed any­thing they were right there to text me back or sent me the clip I needed to catch up on,” Clin­ton-Dix said. “It wasn’t a prob­lem at all. … I watched ev­ery sin­gle prac­tice so I didn’t miss a beat.”

With the op­tional work­outs be­hind him, Clin­ton-Dix is ex­pected to re­main in Green Bay for the con­clu­sion of the off-sea­son pro­gram and re­port for train­ing camp in July. He bris­tled at the idea of hold­ing out for a new con­tract — a la Seat­tle Sea­hawks safety Kam Chan­cel­lor in 2015 — be­cause of the fines as­so­ci­ated with miss­ing manda­tory ac­tiv­i­ties.

“You’re get­ting fined and fined and fined,” Clin­ton-Dix said of play­ers who wage hold­outs. “I’m a guy that I need my money, man. That’s why I’m here now. I need my money.”

So there’s a ma­jor rea­son for his ab­sence last month: He couldn’t be fined for skip­ping vol­un­tary work­outs.

Nonethe­less, at some point be­tween now and next Fe­bru­ary, when the foot­ball world de­scends on In­di­anapo­lis for the NFL scout­ing com­bine, the Pack­ers and Clin­ton-Dix’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives will en­gage in con­ver­sa­tions about a po­ten­tial con­tract ex­ten­sion. And at that point, Clin­ton-Dix can fi­nally broach the sub­ject of adding a work­out bonus to his next deal.

“I ain’t wor­ried about the long-term con­tract,” Clin­ton-Dix said. “I’ll let God han­dle that. All I can do is fo­cus on what I can do and that’s be a ballplayer and make plays and have fun.”

Ha Ha Clin­ton-Dix skipped OTAs due to a death in the fam­ily and be­cause there were no work­out in­cen­tives in his con­tract.

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