GREEN BAY – Stepping to the podium for the first time in camp, Luke Getsy wasted no time addressing the topic on everyone’s mind.
The Packers’ first-year receivers coach even broke the ice.
“Who’s got the first tennis ball question for me?” asked Getsy with a smile.
The 32-year-old assistant coach’s touch on his new position group has been visible since he was promoted to his current post from offensive quality control coach in February.
Getsy has incorporated a variety of new drills and exercises in an effort to help hone his receivers’ fundamentals and improve hand-eye coordination.
He has the receivers juggling, snagging ricocheting tennis balls off walls, dropping bricks and grabbing them in air, and catching footballs within inches of the JUGS machine.
The newest exercise he unveiled this week was a sideline drill where receivers cover one eye while catching a ball with their free hand.
“Eye-hand coordination training. That’s all,” Getsy said. “We’re all eye-dominant. You’re training the dominant eye and you’re training the less-dominant eye.”
Getsy isn’t new to the receiving corps. He assisted Alex Van Pelt with the position last year when Van Pelt was pulling double-duty coaching both the quarterbacks and receivers.
The teaching elements Getsy has brought to the position have been cultivated over a long journey through the coaching ranks that began as a graduate assistant at Akron in 2007.
A record-setting quarterback with the Zips, Getsy spent two years in Ohio before taking jobs at West Virginia Wesleyan, Pittsburgh, Indiana University of Pennsylvania and one season as a receivers coach at Western Michigan in 2013.
“Everywhere,” said Getsy of where he got the idea for some of the exercises. “The road that I’ve taken, you get different ideas from different people.”
He’s also heard ideas from the receivers, keeping an open line of communication about adopting new drills and suggestions for how to improve others.
“It’s not just me. Those guys are creative,” Getsy said.
The new exercises with bricks and tennis balls garnered rave reviews during the offseason program from a young position group looking to take the next step.
The hands-on drill with the JUGS machine can look intimidating when leaning forward with their hands extended in front of the device, but the receivers feel it’s been a good exercise for improving hand strength and reactions.
One of third-year receiver Jared Abbrederis’ favorite additions from Getsy is a drill where two receivers run side-by-side during a pass-catching workout and have to pull down a pass.
Instead of simply going up to get the ball and finishing the drill, the receiver must catch it and turn away from the receiver who is covering.
“A lot of times as a receiver, if you go up, just stay there and come down, the DB has a chance to knock it out,” Abbrederis said. “If you go up, catch it, twist and turn it away, that really helps you secure the ball after you catch it.”
Getsy’s teachings have caught the attention of Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy, who preached all offseason about the offense needing to improve its fundamentals in 2016.
One of the prevailing reasons McCarthy took Getsy on as an assistant in 2014 was because of his creativity and attention to detail. That’s shining through early in camp.
“You want to keep things fresh,” McCarthy said. “Really the goal is always the same when you’re working fundamentals. How you get there is really the fun part of being an assistant coach.
“Luke has done a good job with creativity working hand-eye coordination and really the details of development and the fundamentals that you want to improve on each and every year. For a young coach, he’s off to an excellent start. He’s done a hell of a job.”
Training camp is an important time for the receivers. While the Packers are considered deep at the position, Jordy Nelson is the only player older than 25 with more than six NFL seasons under his belt.
From Pro Bowler Randall Cobb to rookie Trevor Davis, everyone can learn a thing or two this time of the year. At the end of the day, it’s all about catching the football.
“As a receiver group, we consider ourselves playing Pokemon right now,” Cobb said. “We’re trying to catch ’em all. We’re going to go out there and try to make as many plays as we can.”
The Packers are optimistic Getsy’s tactics will help the passing game re-emerge after what could be considered a down year in 2015. So far, he’s leaving no stone unturned.
So does Getsy have any more tricks up his sleeve?
“I’m early in my career, so hopefully a lot more,” he said. “I don’t think you can get more creative than what I’ve been doing. We’ll keep trying.”