GREEN BAY – The Packers' coordinators and defensive assistant coaches met with the media on Thursday. Here's a sampling of their key comments.
Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett
On how Aaron Rodgers throws well in difficult weather:
A lot of people will say it's certain arm strength. Some people say size of the hands definitely helps. It's a lot of things that go into it. Just understanding which way the wind is going. How to throw it which way. Making those right decisions, anticipation of how it's flowing. It's hard. There's not a lot that are good at that. That's why a lot of people start running the ball quite a bit or go to those easier underneath throws.
On the break being good for a rookie like Royce Newman:
Without a doubt. I think it's everybody. It's a grind in this profession across the board. I think for these rookies, they've never experienced anything like that. I mean, 12 games, the three preseason games, training camp, the level of competition, the change of schemes, all those things. We try our best to try to make it not monotonous. We try to mix it up as much as we can, make it fun and exciting so the guys are excited to come into the building, because that's kind of the culture we built here with Matt. I think that kind of keeps it light, but there are times it kind of catches up to you. I think that break is going to be huge. I think it's huge for our entire group and now it's about getting refocused, reset and ready to rock and roll for these last five games.
Defensive coordinator Joe Barry
On getting Jaire Alexander back at practice:
It's just been nice to kind of interject him back into football, having him out on the practice field, just because of the energy and the juice and the natural passion that he brings. So it's been great the last two days having him out. Yesterday was a good day, today was a good day, so we'll just take it day-by-day, but it's phenomenal and exciting with the potential of getting him back because he's special. Special kid, special player.
On having Jerry Gray as a position coach:
You have to teach and I think that's probably the best attribute that Jerry has is he's an incredible teacher. He teaches the game to the guys. Obviously, you've got to teach the guy the playbook, but you've got to teach technique, you've got to teach the position specific, how you're going to get attacked every week, and he does a really incredible job doing that. The list is long. The job that he's done with Eric (Stokes) this year has been phenomenal.
Special teams coordinator Maurice Drayton
On Amari Rodgers dealing with tough conditions:
Amari did a really good job today, as well as yesterday, catching in the elements. I'm very encouraged where he's going. At the end of the day, he is still a rookie. There's a maturation process that has to take place. It is taking place. We're pleased with his progression, but we want more. We're always going to want more, because this team needs more, and we deserve more.
On the FG operation getting a break:
I think everybody needed a break. Having a break and you get away, you find out that the real world, that life, is a whole lot harder than this sport of football. At the end of the day, it's still a child's game with a king's ransom, and I think getting away from that standpoint, you're like, you know what, we can handle this kicking holding snapping situation. So having a break, it definitely helped. I think it resets your mind and it kind of prioritizes things.
Defensive backs coach/passing game coordinator Jerry Gray
On seeing Jaire Alexander back at practice:
It's good that he can get back out there with the guys and they get a chance to see him move around, they get a chance to say, 'OK, Jaire has that spark in his step, he's breaking and driving like everybody else.' And I think that's comfort for me but also comfort for the other guys because they see progress. I think when other guys see that good player gets a chance to come back, that's all progress and they know, OK, it's a matter of time.
On how Rasul Douglas fit in so quickly:
Well, No. 1 I think he was willing to ask questions. A lot of young guys, and he's not a younger guy, but he was new. And he was like, 'Hey coach. Can you meet me in the mornings? And can we sit down and watch film?' I'm like, 'Yeah. Yeah. Anytime.' I told him what my mindset was when I watch film as a coach, but also the same as a player. I'm looking for stuff that's going to give me a chance to make a play compared to just looking how good the guy is that I'm going against. We watched film for about 45 minutes, four or five times and say, 'Hey, now what are you getting now? What do you see?' And then he started giving me the information back and once we did that, hey look, you're on your own now because you've got the ability to make plays and now you've got to have enough courage to make plays.
Defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery
On Kingsley Keke since his return from injury:
I definitely feel like he's playing with a little bit more energy and juice and physicality. He's always been athletic, but now he's really being strong at the point of attack. He's affecting the quarterback. So yeah, I like what he's doing. Just gotta keep it up.
On Kenny Clark's season:
He's in a zone. His preparation is dialed in. He's putting the time in. He always has. You can ask him questions about things we've prepped, and he's dialed in. He's seeing things and he's transitioning and he's just playing at a really high level right now. It's a testament to the time he's put into it.
Inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti
On De'Vondre Campbell preparing while not being around:
The good thing is we're kind of seasoned at this after the last year-and-a-half, or so. Obviously he's been in all the meetings, and then we talked to each other and we've watched all the film. We've stayed in pretty good communication all week anyway, so it's definitely different, but I liken it to when a guy kind of needs a break from practice a little bit. This isn't an uncommon situation this time of year in that you're getting a guy ready on limited practice reps. That does happen in an NFL season. When you trust a guy to get himself ready to play, anything I give him just supplements his own preparation anyway.
Outside linebackers coach Mike Smith
On Za'Darius Smith itching to get back:
I think he's eager, he's excited. I'm sure he is feeling better but he's still got some time to go. We're playing good ball and we're on a good football team. He sees everybody having fun and having a good time, and he wants to join it. He's got to be smart about it. Obviously, can't wait until he gets back but just got to take his time and make sure when he's back, he's back for good.
On Rashan Gary returning so quickly from the elbow injury:
I thought (he'd be out) for a while because I saw it on the replay. It was bad. Then, after the game, I ran upstairs to look. The thing about Rashan is he's tough. There's not a lot of guys that would have come back. He got really lucky. I said a long prayer on the way home driving from the game. Thank God he answered it. I'm just glad he's OK. He's a tough kid.