GREEN BAY – The Packers' coordinators and defensive assistants met with the media on Thursday. Here's a sampling of their key comments.
Offensive coordinator Nathanial Hackett
On Aaron Rodgers potentially playing without practicing:
There's this unknown. As a coach you want to prepare the guys so bad. It's what we live for during the week and putting these plays in, showing them looks, having them get up there, call the plays, rehearsing everything. You feel them be comfortable, you feel yourself be comfortable. Like everybody has said, if anybody can do it, it's definitely Aaron and you feel more comfortable with it being a guy like Aaron. But there's just the unknown of not going out there and executing the plays. So, we'll see.
On Jordan Love's first start:
I'm really proud of Jordan. Getting thrown in there in that kind of environment, he did some really good things and it wasn't too big for him. The first thing you look for as a coach is a guy that's able to approach it, able to take criticism, able to take coaching. He's a guy that's getting better and you saw it as that game went on. That's the good thing about Jordan is he's the same guy no matter what. Nothing's too big for him and he just goes out there and plays ball.
Defensive coordinator Joe Barry
On rushing/containing QB Russell Wilson:
The worst thing you can do is rush scared. You can't rush scared or you can't be cautious. But you definitely have to be smart when you rush a guy like this. There's five offensive linemen. Well, there's three gaps on each side of the center, so that's six rush lanes that you have to defend. The key thing that you always talk about is when you rush four, you've got to condense and you've got to collapse the pocket and rush lanes. Russell, he's been a master of it for years.
On where the defense is at right now:
I think they have the mindset that we've left some plays out there that we can go make. Again, I think that's the great thing about this group is that they're always hungry for more. They're hungry to learn, they're hungry to work, they're hungry to improve. I think when your veterans have that approach, that they don't care about anything other than the matter at hand.
Special teams coordinator Maurice Drayton
On the field-goal unit's problems:
We are working towards that, and we will get that done. We're going to get it fixed. Committed to it. Have to. Mason Crosby deserves better. OK? I owe him. We owe him. We're going to make it happen.
On sticking with Amari Rodgers as punt returner:
It was important that Amari got back out there and caught that next punt – which he did, and he was able to return it for 15-plus yards. I've watched in this league young returners get broken early. I've watched young returners never become old returners because of things that have happened when they were young. So it was important. It's sort of like riding a bike. When you fall, you've got to get back on it and you've got to get out there right now. Those conditions (in KC), it wasn't easy. Wasn't easy at all. There were wind gusts during the game up to I want to say 28, 29 mph. Their guy had problems catching the ball as well, too.
Defensive backs coach/passing game coordinator Jerry Gray
On making this scheme work:
With any scheme, whenever you listen to offensive guys, they wanna take shots. They want big plays, they want chunk plays. Everybody's trying to find a way to get a ball over your head. Most teams don't wanna drive the ball 15 plays and score. I was raised the same way with Fritz Shurmur when we were in L.A. They want the glorified touchdown and he's like, 'Somewhere along the line, if you make 'em dink and dunk, they're gonna make a mistake. They're gonna take a shot and you're gonna get a chance to get an interception.' We're doing a great job of understanding what this defense allows us to do and give us a chance, 'You know what, make teams dink and dunk the ball. Don't give up shots.' And then you have a chance to win a lot of football games.
On the safety play:
We put a lot on their plate. To me, they're just as vital as a middle linebacker in this scheme. They may not call every play, but there are some techniques and things that they have to play that they have to know by formation. It's not just gonna be in the call. You have to do some things within that call that's gonna help us make these plays and I think Darnell and Adrian's doing an excellent job.
Defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery
On Dean Lowry's strong play, even with limited snaps:
He's in a good place. He's believing. His confidence is back. He's playing physical. When you're a guy that size and want to go forward and go through people, he's got the right mindset. I'm pleased with where he's at, mentally, and that helps. He's in the right place that he's not playing with the fear of failure.
On the defense as a whole:
I still don't think we're where we can be, but there's not a moment that these guys don't blink on the sideline regardless of what happens. There's been ups and downs. There's been a turnover here, a change of possession, sudden change and the guys are like, 'We're up, let's go.' Where before you could see in the past, guys' heads drop and are just like, 'Oh here we go again.' And these guys, I can't tell you what it is, but you've got no egos, you've got guys that want to win, so whatever we need to do to do it, they're dialed in. But again, like anything, I don't think it's perfect. I still think there's things we need to fix and get better and improve on. But they've got the right mindset and they're preparing really, really well. Every room, every individual room, those guys are putting in the time. We talk about it all the time, the old quote from Sun Tzu: 'Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and hope to win.' So these guys are dialed in.
Inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti
On Krys Barnes in Year 2:
Krys is a mature guy. The biggest thing is that he has the expectation underneath his belt. This year has been a different year for him because you have to remember, last year he didn't really play in front of fans. He didn't have the full experience, so he's still going through some new experiences. He takes all that stuff in stride just because of the person he is. He's a pretty even guy, all the time. He's pretty level-headed, so he stays within himself all the time and he stays very focused on what he needs to do.
Outside linebackers coach Mike Smith
On Whitney Mercilus' first couple games:
The thing I like about Whitney (is) obviously the experience in the league. His leadership. He's a grown man that's all bought in. He's just a great influence to have in the room. I was telling Gutey and those guys the other day, I think all the time I've been in the league, this is one of my favorites we've brought into the building at all the places I've been just because of who he is and what he brings to the table. So I'm very lucky and very blessed to have him in our room.
On rushing vs. Russell Wilson:
The thing about Russell, I think besides Lamar (Jackson), he's the best in the league. He's not overly fast guy but he's super athletic. He's bigger than what you think, lower body, he's always ducking down, spinning, giving you the pump fake. He's a weapon back there. It's important for the back end to plaster with these receivers when he does get out. We don't want him to get out, but if he does there's a reason … you pull up the film and there's seven to 10 different scrambles a game against everybody they play. It's easier said than done. We have to do our best to keep him in there. It'll change the way you rush a little bit, because you have to be cautious of where he's at, but also you can't rush scared. That's my biggest thing. You go into a game and you rush scared and you're sitting there peeking at the line of scrimmage and looking, you're making it easy for him. We have to understand what front we're in and take calculated risks when we get after him. He's definitely a guy you have to worry about for sure.