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Rich Bisaccia quickly putting his stamp on Packers' special teams

From signage to drills, new coordinator making expectations clear for his unit

Packers Special Teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia
Packers Special Teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia

GREEN BAY – From the "We-fense" terminology around Lambeau Field to unique drills at practice, it's quite apparent the Rich Bisaccia era is off and running in Green Bay.

The Packers' focused-and-fiery new special teams coordinator was hard at work during rookie minicamp, with most of the 51 weekend participants spending at least part of their day with Bisaccia and his longtime assistant, Byron Storer.

On Friday, the Packers debuted a new special-teams period that saw Bisaccia toss tennis balls to his returners, who fielded the "punt" while jammers and gunners simulated a coverage drill.

It's just one example of the changes Bisaccia has started to implement with his new team.

"Rich is super intentional with what he asks the guys to do," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "He's been doing this for a very long time and he's very convicted in not only the drill work but what we're going to do schematically and how you develop players. I think he does a great job of that."

During his first news conference with Green Bay reporters last month, Bisaccia outlined his "we-fense" mindset for special teams and his love of coaching. The latter was obvious over the weekend when Bisaccia made the rounds during pre-practice stretching, chatting with players and clapping enthusiastically.

As Bisaccia looks to build his special-teams base, including identifying six primary protection/coverage players to anchor his punt team, there already has been a rush of personnel changes.

The Packers' top three special-teamers in terms of playing time (Oren Burks, Henry Black and Isaac Yiadom) have departed, while veteran Pat O'Donnell has replaced Corey Bojorquez as the team's punter/holder.

In turn, General Manager Brian Gutekunst signed one of Bisaccia's top pupils, cornerback Keisean Nixon, a Raiders special-teams stalwart for the past three seasons.

This past weekend, Bisaccia and his staff worked with most of the team's 11-player draft class during rookie minicamp. That includes seventh-round pick Tariq Carpenter, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound safety who played on Georgia Tech's core-four units during the early portion of his college career.

"I want to do anything that's going to help the team," Carpenter said. "If that's me playing special teams or if that's me playing on defense, I'm going to do my best to do everything possible that I can to touch the grass. It really don't matter what I'm doing. If I'm on special teams, then I'm going to give it all I got."

Beyond the coverage units, the stage is set for a wide-open competition for the Packers' kickoff and punt return jobs. While Amari Rodgers and Malik Taylor are back, rookies Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs have experience returning, as well.

Watson earned first-team All-America honors as a kickoff returner during his junior year at the North Dakota State after returning two of his 10 kickoffs for touchdowns.

Doubs, meanwhile, was a four-year punt returner at Nevada, averaging 12.5 yards on 37 returns. He brought back his first collegiate punt in 2018 for an 80-yard touchdown.

"I've gotten my experience just kind of playing on kickoff, playing on punt because we went over those (Friday)," Doubs said. "I just really think to be completely honest whatever it is that the team needs me to do, I'll do it."

The "we-fense" moniker is an expression Bisaccia uses to emphasize the synergy needed between offensive and defensive players to maximize efficiency on special teams.

While it is only May, Bisaccia hasn't wasted any time in setting his standard of expectations – for himself, the coaches and the men who'll compete for spots on his unit later this summer.

"You can see his command out there," LaFleur said. "He loves them tough, no doubt about it. He gets after them pretty good, but he also puts his arm around them as well."

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