Coach's Corner

Special teams coach Frank Novak took time after a practice a few days prior to Green Bay's Monday night game at Jacksonville to answer questions from Packer Report managing editor Todd Korth.

How would you rate the performance of the Packers' special teams up to this point in the season?

Novak: "It's hard to generalize and talk about all of them in one statement. I would say with some units we have showed some progress. We've shown progress with our punter (Josh Bidwell). He's done a good job. We're improving on both of our cover units. I am not pleased with our kickoff return unit. Our field goal protection and our kicker (Ryan Longwell) are starting to improve in the last few weeks. It depends on which unit you're looking at and where we are.

"I would say we're doing OK, but we could do a lot better. I'm hoping that in the last six weeks we improve on our kickoff return game even though we lost Allen Rossum. I'm looking at whoever takes his place is going to do a good job. And we're going to do a better job of creating space for him. That's the responsibility of our blocking team to do a better job. All of us are going to try to put forth a better effort and try to get this thing so that we get better field position for our offense."

How much has Allen Rossum's absence because of injuries early in the season and now affected special teams?

Novak: "Anytime you lose a great player like that, it hurts you. But there still are other areas in parts of those units that we can improve on. Regardless of who we have back there, we've got to do a better job. That's the attitude that we're taking in the remaining six games of the regular season."

Josh Bidwell's confidence seems to be as high as ever. How would you assess his performance this season?

Novak: "He's doing a nice job. He's become a good situational punter. He's able to put the ball where we want it. He's able to put a little touch on it so we can down it inside the 20. He's done a good job with that this year. He made a great punt against the Bears (Nov. 11). Allen (Rossum) just wasn't able to hold onto it, but the location of the ball was good. He's becoming a very proficient kicker for us."

What adjustments did Ryan Longwell make to snap out of his slump midway through this season?

Novak: "I really think his holder (Doug Pederson) helped him. I think there were some things there with the holder that we needed to modify in terms of the tilt of the ball. And I think he's just got his groove back. He's got a better swing to it. He's kicking with a little more confidence. I think that's all part of it."

Does playing in cold weather make you cringe as a special teams coach?

Novak: "You just realize that all the kickers have the same problem – the ball doesn't go as far. That's the way it is. (Detroit's) Jason Hanson can come in here and he's not going to kick the ball as deep as he would if he were indoors. It's just the reality of where we are. The elements are part of our performance. It's something that we have to adapt to. We have to be adaptable."

With Rossum out, will you be forced to play more conservatively with the return units?

Novak: "I don't want to do that. Just because he's out, we're not going to fair catch or let it go. That's why Robert Ferguson and James Rooths are working out. Otherwise, we'll just say (Antonio) Freeman will do it and we'll fair catch it all the time. But we're not going to do that."

Would you be nervous inserting a player like Robert Ferguson as the team's punt returner, even though he hasn't suited up for a game this season?

Novak: "I don't know how (Ferguson) would respond to a situation like that. The only thing you go on is how well does he do it in practice and if you've got confidence in the guy. I know I got ‘Free.' Free will go and catch the ball for me. He'll do it. He's got a great attitude about it. But I'd like to get somebody and take the pressure off him so he doesn't have to do that, and give us a legitimate chance to get the ball up the field."

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