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Former Alabama standouts anchor secondaries for Giants, Packers

GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Crimson Tide-tinted friendship of Landon Collins and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will be tested Sunday at Lambeau Field.

Two of the game's top young safeties have known each other since college. Collins followed Clinton-Dix to Alabama, then to the NFL.

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They will get together again this weekend when Clinton-Dix and the Green Bay Packers (10-6) host Collins and the New York Giants (11-5) in an NFC wild-card game. Kickoff is set for 4:40 p.m. on Fox (WOFL-Ch. 35).

"I hope he goes out and has a tremendous game, and also takes an `L,''' Clinton-Dix, who played high-school football at Dr. Phillips in Orlando, said in a friendly voice.

It's been quite the season already for Collins and Clinton-Dix. They each have five interceptions, tying for the league lead among safeties. They have been selected for their first Pro Bowl on Jan. 29 at Camping World Stadium. They both wear No. 21.

Collins was selected to the AP All-Pro first team Friday. Clinton-Dix was a second-team choice.

"We're like brothers. That's my boy," Collins said. "We train together and almost do everything together."

They don't have quite the same roles, though.

The sturdy Collins (6-0, 225) plays strong safety in the Giants' stout secondary after being selected in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

Clinton-Dix (6-1, 208) roams the field as a free safety for the Packers after being taken in the first round of the 2014 draft.

The Packers, who have won six consecutive games, might especially need Clinton-Dix to fulfill his big-play potential Sunday, with the cornerback position beset by injuries just as Odell Beckham Jr. and the Giants' talented receiving corps arrive at Lambeau Field.

Quinten Rollins hasn't practiced this week because he's in the concussion protocol, while fellow cornerback Damarious Randall returned to practice fully Thursday after being limited earlier in the week by a knee injury.

"We just find ways to finish ballgames,'' Clinton-Dix said.

"We're finding ways to stick together. We've been playing ball, man. We've just got to keep it up."

Just like in the teams' first meeting in October, when the Packers beat the Giants 23-16. Clinton-Dix posted a picture on Instagram after the game in which he exchanged his green-and-gold Packers jersey for Collins' white Giants jersey.

"We WILL be on TOP SOON! Nick Saban Safeties," Clinton-Dix wrote on Instagram, referring to the Tide's head coach.

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Wearing a knit hat with Alabama's scripted "A" logo after practice this week, Clinton-Dix spoke with pride about the strides that he and Collins have made this year.

"I see him ballin'. I also want to do it, too. It's kind of like — we always heard about 'Bama safeties not stepping up to the plate, or DBs period. That kind of put a chip on our [shoulders] as well," Clinton-Dix said. "We've been representing our program and where we come from well, so we've just got to continue doing it."

Clinton-Dix partners with Morgan Burnett to give the Packers a strong duo at safety. Burnett said communication is so seamless now between them that the teammates can tell what last-minute adjustments the other safety might make through eye contact.

"The thing that you probably see now compared to his first couple years is that he's not afraid to make a mistake," Packers safeties coach Darren Perry said recently about Clinton-Dix. "You see him trusting his eyes, and it may not be perfect and they're not going to grade out 100 percent, and that's OK.

"The name of the game when you play the safety position is big hits and interceptions."

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