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Packers LB Whitney Mercilus told the team: 'I promise you, I'm coming back'

Key comments from Green Bay’s coordinators

LB Whitney Mercilus
LB Whitney Mercilus

GREEN BAY – The Packers' three coordinators met with the media on Thursday. Here's a sampling of their key comments.

Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett

On getting ready to interview for head coaching jobs:

It's kind of an ongoing process. You're always taking notes, you're always trying to figure out all the different things you've done throughout your career, the things you've seen other people do. And you're just trying to get all those notes together and decide how you want to run a program. When you're talking to people, it's not really as much X's and O's as people would think. It's more just about kind of the person you are, how you would lead the team, how you would handle the team and it's been a great experience here because how we do it here is how I want to do it. So it's kind of been on-the-job training since I got here with Matt (LaFleur).

On David Bakhtiari's snaps in Detroit and keeping continuity up front:

He did a really good job. It was worth the wait the way we looked at it. He came in there and did everything. With the continuity, I think that line group -- and it starts in that meeting room with Coach Stenavich and Coach Butkus -- they're so tight, all of them together, and I think they do a great job of continually mixing people in. This system that we have and how we've created it is there's a lot of things that are interchangeable so it allows people to be thrown in there all the time. We've almost created change as that normality and the guys are comfortable when people go in there. Nobody's upset or freaking out. It's just, hey, it's business as usual.

Defensive coordinator Joe Barry

On everybody being surprised Whitney Mercilus was back at practice:

We were the same way. Our medical staff does such a great job. I thought that it would be next week. But you talk about a pro and an incredible leader, just an incredible guy. He's been saying since the night that he got hurt, 'I'm going to be back. I'm coming back. I promise you, I'm coming back.' He's worked his tail off to get to where he's at. I was completely surprised that it was as early as today. It was great to have him out there.

On figuring out the right number of snaps for returning players like Jaire Alexander and Za'Darius Smith:

I think that's the toughest challenge. Because again, the enticing part of it from a coach's standpoint, you're not talking about just a player or even a starter. You're talking about Pro Bowlers. You're talking about elite players that have played at an incredibly high level their entire career. So of course, selfishly as a coach, if you've got two guys like that, you want those two to be part of your 11 all the time. And I think that's where we just have to be smart. What that magic number is, we're in the process of still finding out. But I love where we're at.

Special teams coordinator Maurice Drayton

On Amari Rodgers bringing the last kickoff at Detroit out of the end zone:

It's an absolutely huge issue. We do not want to bring the ball out in that situation. We want to keep the ball in at all costs. Sometimes young returners get lost as far as where they are. That ball came off kind of funky. It did not have the traditional trajectory, so if you'll notice, he came forward only to go back and he lost where he was. But absolutely, you have to have the wherewithal, you have to have the spatial awareness to know the situation, know that you're in the box. These are things we talk about in practice, so it was a great teachable moment for him and everyone else on the team. That was huge. It wasn't glossed over.

On punt returns improving as of late:

The guys are doing a good job on the outside first of all. Rasul Douglas does a great job at the corner spot controlling their gunners. (Eric) Stokes has been a part of that as well, along with Ike (Yiadom) and a few others. So it starts with those guys on the outside, and then (on the) interior, these guys have done a good job with their holdups. In addition to that, since we've pressured a lot more, teams are in protection mode, so they're protecting before they get out, which is allowing us to have a little more room and separation to get started.

On the kicking game in the really cold weather:

In a really really cold game, and that's what's being projected right now, you're going to lose 5 to 7 yards off your distances. Also, anytime handling the ball, whether it's the holders, the actual punter himself, we have to make sure that our hands are nice and warm, and utilize some tricks of the trade to make sure we have proper grip on the ball. Same with the returners who are returning. We're used to it, though. This is our element. We practice outside. We love being outside, and we're going to use it to our advantage.