MIDDLETON — Ha Ha Clinton-Dix wasn’t at the Green Bay Packers’ final organized team activity practice on Thursday — just as he apparently hasn't been throughout OTAs.
Instead, the former Pro Bowl safety was down in the greater Madison area, taking part in Northwestern Mutual's charity golf tournament to benefit the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, a leading childhood cancer nonprofit.
But, Clinton-Dix said, he will be in attendance when the Packers begin their mandatory minicamp on Tuesday.
“I’ll be there,” Clinton-Dix said before heading to the driving range.
Asked why he wasn’t at any of the three open OTA practices — and presumably the other OTA sessions that were closed — Clinton-Dix said his absence was because of a personal matter.
While he would not go into specifics, his godmother, Alisa Dorsett, died last month when after she suffered a heart attack while in Tuscaloosa, Alabama for Clinton-Dix’s graduation from the University of Alabama.
In addition to being his godmother and an important influence on him, Dorsett worked as an administrator at Clinton-Dix’s high school, Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, Fla. She died two days before Clinton-Dix received his degree in criminal justice.
When asked on Monday about Clinton-Dix not being at OTAs, Packers coach Mike McCarthy replied, “There's really no need to get into attendance. 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.”
Defensive passing-game coordinator Joe Whitt also downplayed Clinton-Dix’s absence, saying he was “not at all” concerned about what Clinton-Dix was missing.
A 2014 first-round pick, Clinton-Dix is entering the fifth and final year of his rookie contract after the Packers picked up his fifth-year option for 2018. He became the first Packers first-round pick since the 2011 collective bargaining agreement allowed teams to exercise a fifth-year option on the contracts of their first-rounders.
The Packers declined their fifth-year options on previous first-round picks Derek Sherrod, Nick Perry and Datone Jones, and the team traded 2015 first-round pick Damarious Randall to Cleveland in March before having to decide on his fifth-year option. The Browns, who are moving Randall to safety, picked up his option last month.
Clinton-Dix will make $5.957 million this season. According to NFL rules, when a team exercises the fifth-year option, it becomes guaranteed for injury only. If the player is on the team’s roster at the start of the league year in his option season — as Clinton-Dix was — his salary becomes fully guaranteed.
However, unlike other veterans who have hefty workout bonuses written into their contracts to encourage them to come to Green Bay for the voluntary offseason program, Clinton-Dix’s deal does not contain such a provision. This year alone, the Packers were slated to dole out roughly $5 million in workout bonus money to motivate players to attend.
With only four years of experience, Clinton-Dix is not eligible to be excused for the minicamp if McCarthy stays true-to-form and allows players with five or more accrued NFL seasons to head to their offseason homes after Thursday’s final OTA practice. McCarthy has excused selected veterans the past few years in an effort to devote the three days of practice to getting younger players more snaps.
Clinton-Dix was in attendance when the Packers kicked off their offseason program on April 17, and he sounded genuinely excited about new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s scheme after having less than 24 hours to look through Pettine’s playbook.
“I’m very excited about this system. Mike is a great coach. He has a lot of energy. He’s not taking any mess,” Clinton-Dix said at the time. “I’m excited about where this defense can go this year.
“I'm excited about the scheme and things that are going on inside of that (play) book. It's all smiles from me. I'm excited about it. I'm excited to work. I'm excited to be here.”
Clinton-Dix figures to be a vital part of Pettine’s scheme, especially after the free-agent departure of veteran safety Morgan Burnett. With Burnett now in Pittsburgh, Clinton-Dix is set to have a young safety — Josh Jones and Kentrell Brice saw the most practice time with the No. 1 defense during the three open OTA practices — starting alongside him.
In April, Clinton-Dix admitted that he was disappointed with how his 2017 season went after a Pro Bowl nod the previous season.
"Last year, we had to do what was best for the team,” Clinton-Dix said then. “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.
“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.”