GREEN BAY – The Packers' coordinators and defensive assistant coaches met with the media over the past couple of days. Here's a summary of their key comments:
Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett
On Aaron Rodgers relishing this opportunity:
Without a doubt. His focus has been unbelievable this whole year. He's been out on a mission. His ability to focus and be serious and make sure everybody's doing the right stuff, holding everybody accountable, but at the same time he's still enjoying it and having fun, so I think that mesh is what you're always looking for. With his skill and those two attributes, it's awesome, and that's what we've seen.
On the Rams' defensive scheme:
You really don't know what you're going to get. You're going to have to adjust on the fly. The guys are going to have to communicate and trust their training, because they're going to put people out there that can do so many different multiple looks.
Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine
On the status of the defense:
We're certainly a lot closer to what we want it to look like. The bar is set extremely high and we're always striving for it. We feel like we've progressed, we've trended in the right direction. But you're only as good as your last performance. What we've done getting to this point, when we step on the field on Saturday means absolutely nothing. If we want to play in the NFC Championship Game, we have to go out and earn it. I think our guys understand that. I know they're going to be prepared.
On "Snacks" Harrison:
It's an easy transition for Damon Harrison. He's done a good job just having to adjust the style of play, how we do things a little bit different from what he's used to, and some of the habits he has to get out of. Obviously, I knew him from before, know that he has a very high football IQ. Now that he's here and has some reps under his belt, we're confident that he can handle whatever workload we end up giving him.
Special teams coordinator Shawn Mennenga
On the challenges against the Rams' special teams:
Obviously the returner (Nsimba Webster). Everything starts with him. They've got a good core. They're big up front, they have the three outside linebackers that have good size, (Derek) Rivers the defensive end, they've got some good skill guys, (Nick) Scott and (JuJu) Hughes at the DBs, and they've got a good mix of offensive and defensive players and they're physical. But I think Webster has done a good job for them as far as a kick returner and punt returner, he's very elusive and he kind of gives them energy. He had a big return last week against Seattle on kick return to kind of give them good field position and he's definitely a threat every time he touches the ball. Then obviously (Johnny) Hekker's one of the best punters in the NFL and does an excellent job and he can definitely flip the field and pin you down there.
Defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery
On the improved run defense:
We've limited the explosives. Guys have been sounder. It's like putting a puzzle together. If you're missing one piece, you've got an issue, and I think for the most part we've eliminated those issues and guys have made tackles and gotten off blocks and made the plays that come to them. And no one's trying to do above and beyond their job. If you have all 11 doing what they're supposed to be doing, you should have a chance, and I think we've done that. It's not perfect, and we're working to get to that point, but I definitely think it's been much better.
On Aaron Donald:
You can't put a corner speed on a 295-pound man and say he's normal. So, his burst off the football, the strength of a 300-pound man, he can do just about anything when he wants. If a guy's going to short-set him, he's got the speed and quickness to cross chop and get around him. They slide the protection to him, he's able to counter and split the crease and get vertical. And then people start setting him with depth because of his speed, and then he goes to his power. He's just a unique human. He's a freak-show athlete. It's fun to watch him play. Those guys don't come around very often. When you get one, you play the heck out of him.
Defensive backs coach Jerry Gray
On Rams WRs Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp:
They're very good in space, they can cut on a dime. Cooper Kupp is a really good receiver, very smart, understands stems, understands how to use your leverage against you. And then Woods is pretty much the same. I've played against those guys about three or four times and they're all going to compete. They block in the run game, so you're going to have to bring your lunch because those guys are going to do it all. They're not just going to, 'Hey, throw me the ball and my day is done.' They're going to block in the run game and you can see it on tape.
On Adrian Amos:
I think Adrian reminds me a lot of when I had Harrison Smith and Blaine Bishop and guys like that who've been the veteran safety on the team. We're talking about a stable guy, he understands what that means, and when I talk to Adrian, I talk to him about leadership. What does that mean? You have to be consistent all the time, on the football field and off the football field. What are you doing study-wise? Are you bringing young guys in, are you tutoring them? That's when leaders really show up in your locker room. I really like the place that Adrian's in, and I know everybody looks for making plays on the football field, but I look what he does off the field. There's young guys who respect him, they want to watch film with him.
Outside linebackers coach Mike Smith
On the improved run defense:
Everybody's just doing their job. If you do your job, and ours is setting the edge – we're doing jam footwork, canceling inside gaps, whatever it may be – that's what we've got to do. When we do that, especially with our guys and how big and strong they are, you set that edge and you collapse a whole side, these guys have seen that a lot lately, it's just tough to run.
On Rams T Andrew Whitworth:
He's a really smart guy. When I watch him, he understands pass-rush angles, he understands leverage, he understands who he's going against. Obviously, every rusher's different. You see a little bit of different things from him every week when you watch him but he's a savvy guy. He understands the game, he understands where he needs to be. That's why he's played so long. It's going to be a good challenge for our guys. I'm excited to watch them get after each other.