Packers CB Jaire Alexander nearly makes ‘big mistake’ after crashing coin toss vs. Panthers

Packers CB Jaire Alexander nearly makes 'big mistake' after crashing coin toss vs. Panthers

Green Bay Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander made his return to the field Sunday by crashing the pregame toss and nearly doing the one thing you should never do at a pregame coin toss.

After missing six games due to a shoulder injury, the Pro Bowler played his first game since Week 9 against the Carolina Panthers, his hometown team as a Charlotte native.

The Packers had their regular captains — Aaron Jones, Quay Walker and Eric Wilson — out for the coin toss, but Alexander took the unusual step of walking out with them and making the two decisions required of the group. The first went well, with Alexander calling tails and getting tails.

The second, well, let’s do a quick review of how an NFL coin toss works.

How an uninvited Jaire Alexander nearly screwed up the Packers’ coin toss

When a team wins, it’s usually seen as them choosing to kick or return to open the game, with the understanding that the second half will open the opposite way. Then the other team chooses what side of the field they will take.

It’s actually a bit more complicated than that. Instead of kicking or returning, teams are actually deciding when they want the choice to kick or return to open a half. When one team says “We’ll receive,” that’s fine, they’re just saying they are making the choice now and would like to receive the ball.

But you must never, ever say “We’ll kick.” Because an official may take that as deciding you are making the choice to open the game with a kick and then the other team will make its choice at the start of the second half, at which point they will obviously choose to receive, resulting in your team kicking off to start both halves. That’s why players always say “defer,” because they are deferring their team’s choice to the second half.

Yeah, so Alexander didn’t seem to know that. Asked by the official what the Packers wanted to do, he said “I want our defense on the field” when he was supposed to say “We’ll defer.”

Fortunately, the officials were feeling more merciful than they have in the past. The Packers did end up getting the ball to open the second half, but Alexander had some questions to answer after the game, a 33-30 win.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 09: Jaire Alexander #23 of the Green Bay Packers reacts during the national anthem prior to an NFL football game between the Las Vegas Raiders and the Green Bay Packers at Allegiant Stadium on October 09, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

Jaire Alexander nearly made a costly error for the Packers on Sunday. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

Alexander confirmed he wasn’t supposed to be out there for the coin toss, but said his teammates knew he was from Charlotte and backed him up. Then he recounted how the coin toss went down and made very clear he didn’t realize how close he came to disaster:

“I said I wanted our defense to be out there and they all looked at me like I was crazy. I mean, it’s pretty simple when I say I want the defense to be out there.”

“He was just like, ‘Defer?’ I was like, ’Yeah.’ Everybody was like, ‘yeah.’ Everybody was laughing. I’m like, ‘What are y’all laughing at? It’s pretty obvious what I’m asking for.’”

Packers head coach Matt LaFleur was less amused, saying players should receive the “kick vs. defer” clarification basically every time they handle the coin toss, via Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

“That’s a big mistake,” LaFleur said. “That’s something you review with the guys before you go out there every time, about, ‘Hey, we win the toss we’re going to defer.’

Are the NFL’s coin toss rules unnecessarily complicated? Yes. Are they something a sixth-year NFL veteran like Alexander should know if he’s going to commandeer his team’s pregame decisions? The answer is also probably yes.

Alexander at least made up for it with four tackles and a forced fumble in the game (recovered by the Panthers), though it wasn’t the best game for the Packers’ defense. Carolina gained 394 yards in the game, averaging 6.3 per play, and tied the game with two fourth-quarter touchdown drives before the Packers won it with a last-minute field goal.

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