Jaire Alexander aiming to be 'dominant without hesitation'

Meditation, sharpened focus have led to Packers cornerback’s strong start

CB Jaire Alexander

GREEN BAY – The first time Jaire Alexander tried meditating was during his time at the University of Louisville.

And it wasn't exactly a smashing success.

"It was the hardest thing of my life," Alexander said.

The key to any kind of meaningful meditation is quieting the mind and blocking out noise, which doesn't necessarily go hand-in-hand with Alexander's occupation.

Whether it's the ACC or the NFC North, perimeter cornerback is one of the most anxiety-ridden spots on a football field. The very best play on an island, lining up toe-to-toe with the opposition's best receiver so safeties can help elsewhere.

That's the role Alexander largely has been thrust into since the Packers drafted him 18th overall back in 2018. As he continues to mature physically as a cornerback, Alexander has been diligent in harnessing the mental side of the game, as well.

"Mentally, I think I'm in a better place – a much better place – now," Alexander said. "I've gotten settled into all these … just the new way of playing football and going about it nowadays. Meditation helps slow down the game for me and yoga keeps me stretched out, loose and ready to go."

Alexander didn't buy any books or download any apps to learn how to meditate. He's largely self-taught, though his love of yoga provided a path to better understanding himself and his body – and it seems to be working.

Alexander is off to arguably the best start of his young career with 19 tackles, four passes defensed, an interception and sack for a safety through the first four games. Pulled late in the fourth quarter of a decisive 42-21 win over Detroit, Alexander has otherwise played every meaningful snap this season.

The 5-foot-10, 196-pound cornerback has faced some stiff competition, too. In the first four weeks, he's covered the likes of Julio Jones, Adam Thielen, Marvin Jones Jr., Emmanuel Sanders and last week contributed to the streaking Calvin Ridley being held without a catch on five targets.

Bright lights have never been an issue for Alexander, who lightheartedly refers to himself as "Primetime Ja-Money" for how well he's performed historically in nationally televised night games.

But one area Alexander has worked to improve is his focus and maintaining that tunnel vision for a 60-minute game.

"I would say a lot of times my thoughts or my mind will be racing," Alexander said. "I just needed a way to keep that focus and be more dominant on and even off the field. A lot of players have anxiety just because of the stage that we're on. That's been the biggest way to calm that down for me and just simplify and narrow the game for me. It's been really good."

The proof has been in the production. Alexander has yet to allow 100 combined receiving yards this year – 12 catches on 19 targets for 95 yards, one touchdown and one INT, according to Pro Football Focus. His 0.66 yards allowed per snap are third fewest among cornerbacks with more than 100 coverage snaps played.

His play was essential Monday night against the Falcons. Because while Jones (hamstring) and Ridley (ankle) were dealing with injuries, Green Bay finished the game without a starting perimeter cornerback (Kevin King/quad) and nickel corner (Chandon Sullivan/concussion).

"Ja is very, very much into evaluation of self, and meditation and the yoga," defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said. "I think that's really helped him because at that position, there's a lot of outside noise that can get into your head and have an effect on your job. He doesn't allow that to happen."

Alexander's goal this season has been to be "dominant without hesitation" and that means not worrying about the name on the back of the jersey of the receiver he's defending.

The Packers' pass defense has some talented ones coming up, as well. After the bye week, Green Bay will travel to face the NFL's ninth-ranked pass offense in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Leading Tampa Bay's passing attack is three-time Pro Bowl receiver Mike Evans, who has caught 22 passes for 271 yards. His six touchdown receptions are most in the NFL this season, just ahead of Packers tight end Robert Tonyan with five.

With a calm mind and supreme confidence, the Packers' 23-year-old cornerback is ready for whatever the remainder of the season brings.

"I'm in a much better place, I'm feeling confident and the sky's the limit," Alexander said. "Or the stars is the limit or the galaxy or anything beyond that."

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