By watching videotapes of practices and studying his playbook, rookie linebacker A.J. Hawk was still keeping tabs on his new team while finishing classes at Ohio State the past month.
But he definitely wanted to get back to Green Bay as soon as possible, arriving from Columbus, Ohio, late Friday night despite not being able to return to the practice field until Monday.
"It felt like I was back in Ohio forever," said Hawk, who missed the Packers' second mini-camp in May and half of the organized team activities (OTAs) that began May 31. "These guys were out here practicing and I was stuck in school.
"The coaches sent me the DVD from the second mini-camp and I had to break down all the plays and see the defense we put in, and get it down on paper. But there's nothing like getting live reps against the offense."
Hawk worked with the No. 1 defense at weak-side linebacker on Monday, and if he had fallen behind in learning the scheme, his teammates don't expect him to stay behind.
"We've put in new stuff, but he's a sharp guy, he's a football guy, and he'll pick it up just like that," defensive lineman Aaron Kampman said. "By Wednesday next week, he'll be where everyone else is for the most part."
Hawk continued to workout daily around finishing his classes in criminology at Ohio State. "Studying" encompassed both classwork and football work, knowing that the sooner he learns the Packers' defensive scheme, the more he can let his instincts take over on the field.
"At the end of the day it's still football, and that's what you want to remember," he said. "You don't want to try and think too much, because once you start thinking, you'll make a mistake and then double-check things, and then you're not having fun playing."
Understanding the defense includes knowing your teammates' responsibilities as well. Lining up alongside them certainly speeds up the learning process, versus watching video and mapping moves on paper.
"That's the biggest thing, to know not only what I'm doing but what everybody else around me is doing," Hawk said. "That's when I started to feel comfortable at Ohio State, and that's when you start to understand the defense. That's why I want to get the scheme down here, so I can not think and just play."
That down-to-earth approach and dedication is visible to those working with Hawk.
"I tell you what, from what I've seen of him so far, ...they don't make them like that necessarily anymore," Kampman said. "He keeps his mouth shut, does his job, and that's what you want. You want guys that are coachable and don't come in with a big head and a big ego, and go out and make plays. As you continue to make plays and gain experience, you gain a little more leadership and more responsibility."
Hawk would welcome that in time, but for now he's going to continue taking the advice he heard from other Ohio State alums in the NFL, some of whom had their own catching up to do when they were getting their pro careers started.
"They said to get in there, learn how to be a pro and learn what guys do and how they watch film," Hawk said. "I was missing those things being in Columbus, so it's good to be in here and picking some of those things up."