One of the central focuses on the 100th anniversaries of the National Football League and the Chicago Bears this season will be the league’s oldest (also 100 years old) continuous rivalry between the Bears and the Green Bay Packers.
It all kicks off with the opening game of the season on Thursday evening, Sept. 5th at Soldier Field in Chicago featuring those two clubs.
But for the two teams and their fans, that rivalry actually rages pretty much 24/7, 365 days a year, and it got its own turbo charge this past March when the Packers raided the Bears secondary by signing free-agent S Adrian Amos, and the Bears responded in kind by signing former Packer Pro Bowler Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to fill Amos' spot.
Sparks flew immediately with both fan bases claiming victory and a particularly vitriolic response from Packer fans that felt after an excellent first 3 ½ seasons or so in Green Bay, Clinton-Dix had become less focused and less physical and was in large part responsible for some of the club’s woes on defense as Green Bay endured back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1990-91.
Until last season, the Packers have been the superior organization and team over the past 25 years or so —to say the least — perhaps explaining a slight loss of passion for the rivalry and objectivity when it comes to evaluating the two safeties.
Or not? I visited with Clinton-Dix Wednesday and he had a slightly different take on the rivalry than some of his former fans, telling me, “Most definitely, man. These are two of the best organizations in the business, and just to be a part of something special from playing in Green Bay to now being a part of the Chicago Bears its been awesome.
“The fan base, the traditions, the history, man it's unbelievable, and you don't really have it with all the 32 teams in the league.”
Even if Packer fans have been displeased with Clinton-Dix and were glad to see him dealt to Washington last season before signing with the Bears, he is unwilling to burn bridges.
“You know, being traded is not a bad thing. People seem to think that being traded is a bad thing, but it's really not. It just goes to show that your talent isn't going unnoticed, and you just tend to take everything under the chin, and, you know, have fun doing this and getting back to playing the way I'm capable of playing.”
Clinton-Dix believes he’s in the perfect spot to bounce back now.
“Being in [new defensive coordinator Chuck] Pagano's defense, man, it's going to be awesome.
“He's a great guru and we have a lot of talent, talented players on this team, so I'm excited to get out here and get my hands on a couple balls and hopefully score some touchdowns this year.”
By any reasonable analysis, Clinton-Dix has been the far superior safety over his five years in the league than Amos has shown in his four seasons. Both players are 26 years old – Clinton Dix is four months older than Amos – and yet Amos will earn an average of $9 million/year over the next four years in Green Bay, while Clinton-Dix is signed for just $3 — $500,000 guaranteed — this season.
In spite of those somewhat puzzling dynamics, as the lone new starter on the NFL’s reigning No. 1 defense, Clinton-Dix is confident.
“I came from an NFL system being with Dom (Capers), being with Nick Saban, all these guys kind of have the same pro knowledge, and that's what benefits me and puts me ahead of a lot of people, is that I can grasp the defense really well.”
This much is certain: While a large segment of Packers nation is rooting for Clinton-Dix to fail, the Bears brain trust thinks it may have pulled off the steal of the century, and Clinton-Dix appears very confident he’s about to pay off big on the Bears bet.