Skip to main content

Alexander: ‘If It’s September, I Make That Tackle’

Green Bay Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander talks about last year's shoulder injury and the critical missed tackle in the playoff loss to the 49ers.
  • Author:
  • Updated:

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Jaire Alexander’s shoulder injury was incredibly painful. So was how his comeback ended.

Injured on Oct. 3 against Pittsburgh, the Green Bay Packers’ premier cornerback returned to action for the playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers on Jan. 22. The last of his eight snaps that frosty night stung the most.

On a critical third-and-7 late in the game, Alexander lined up in the left slot. Rashan Gary shot up field to rush the quarterback. Instead, Jimmy Garoppolo handed the ball to Deebo Samuel. The only man standing between Samuel and the first-down marker was Alexander.

“If it’s September, I make that tackle,” Alexander said on Wednesday. “For sure. But I had no intention of going into that game and tackling. I had every intention of covering a wide receiver and locking them up.”

Alexander’s first seven snaps were in coverage. Indeed, he locked up his man. The eighth snap, coming with 1:03 remaining and the 49ers just outside of field-goal range, was the surprise running play. Samuel ran through Za’Darius Smith’s arm tackle and plowed through Alexander for a gain of 9 and a first down. That set up Robbie Gould’s game-winning field goal.

“In my mind, I wasn’t going to tackle anybody,” Alexander said. “And if you watch my coverage, I didn’t need to tackle that night. But I just went into that game not ever expecting to tackle, you know? The thought was to go in on passing downs to avoid stuff like that. And then it just so happened the run came my way and you saw the play. I wasn’t ready to tackle him.”

There was nothing physically wrong with Alexander. He said the shoulder was “close to 100 percent” recovered. Rather, the problem was mental. It was Alexander’s first game in three-and-a-half months. The last hurdle for an injured player always is that on-the-field test. For a player coming off an ankle injury, it’s that first hard cut. For a player coming off a torn ACL, it’s doing anything that really stresses the knee. For a player coming off a shoulder injury, it’s making that first tackle.

“It was super-bitter, man. I was so upset about that missed tackle. That was my first time tackling in a few months so I was pissed, honestly,” Alexander said. The play, he added, “fueled me this offseason.”

Coming off his first Pro Bowl season, Alexander was expecting bigger and better things entering 2021. In Week 3, he made a sublime interception at San Francisco when he left his man and seemingly came out of nowhere to pick off a deep pass to George Kittle. A week later, the Packers hosted the Steelers.

On fourth-and-4 from Green Bay’s 32, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin kept the offense on the field. The Packers disguised a blitz, so quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw the ball into the flat to massive running back Najee Harris.

Alexander was waiting.

“As soon as he caught it, I was going to blow him up,” Alexander recalled. “My first thought was blow him up. Take out his legs. He’s huge. And he ended up taking me out.”

He knew immediately it was a serious injury.

“The pain was incredible,” Alexander said. “It was like something I never felt. It was different, man, and I knew instantly. I walked off the field hoping it wasn’t too bad. But when I walked off the field, I couldn’t lift my arm up. It was a tough one.”

Alexander is fully healthy and fully expects to match the expectations that come with his monster contract extension. He made a sensational pass breakup against Aaron Rodgers on Wednesday. He scoffed at the notion that playing in the slot would be dangerous duty. Rather, he sees an opportunity to make plays in another way.

“I like to be on the field at all costs,” he said. “Being inside, I get to blitz the quarterback and we all know how I do when I blitz the quarterback: He goes down. I like it.”

More Packers Minicamp

Highlights from Practice 2 of minicamp

Sammy Watkins trying to “revive” career

Amari Rodgers loses weight, body fat

Highlights from Practice 1 of minicamp

Aaron Rodgers makes statement about future

Marcedes Lewis had nightmares about playoff fumble

Aaron Rodgers will participate only in minicamp