After experiencing ‘trials and tribulations,’ Jaire Alexander says he’s prepared to be the leader the Packers need.

Over the years, Jaire Alexander has become accustomed to life on the island—a fitting term for a shutdown cornerback who operates with considerable autonomy and minimal reliance on teammates.

Whether in press or off coverage, man-to-man or zone, his job is simple: ensure the receiver doesn’t get open. However, Alexander learned last year that this solitary role only applies on the field. Off the field, the Green Bay Packers’ top cornerback can’t go rogue. His actions in the locker room, meetings, and before games impact the entire team. Only Kenny Clark has been part of the Packers’ defense longer than Alexander, making his leadership vital, especially as the NFL’s highest-paid cornerback.

This realization led Alexander to attend organized team activities (OTAs) this spring, a change from last year’s absence. He had already been training in Green Bay for three weeks before the offseason program started and decided to stay, signaling a new approach.

“I think the biggest thing,” Alexander said, “is understanding that, although I am on an island all the time and all day, it’s the culmination of everybody being around, and the culmination of the chemistry we’re building now that’s going to matter later on in the season. You’ll see it.”

Alexander aims for a fresh start after a 2023 season marred by injuries that caused him to miss nine games and a team-imposed suspension for self-appointing as captain at the coin toss in Carolina. Returning from that suspension, he displayed the focus and productivity reminiscent of his best seasons, reaffirming that a complete reset isn’t necessary.

At his peak, Alexander is one of the NFL’s elite cornerbacks, effectively shutting down half the field and being cautiously targeted by quarterbacks. He opened his first media session of 2024 confidently, asserting that “the best corner in the league has entered the chat.” At just 27, he aims to solidify his standing at the top of the NFL and build on his established foundation.

Entering his seventh season, Alexander acknowledges the importance of team-oriented thinking over individual accolades. After being drafted in the first round in 2018, making a Pro Bowl in 2020, and signing a four-year, $84 million contract in 2022, Alexander recognizes it’s time to elevate his teammates as well.

“Going into Year 7,” Alexander said, “at this point, I’m trying not to make it as much about myself and just do what’s best for the team.”

Alexander ended his most challenging season with a highlight-reel interception against Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott, showcasing his potential. His leadership has been evident in practice and meetings, where he has actively connected with teammates and brought his competitive spirit to the field.

“Ja’s been outstanding,” coach Matt LaFleur said. “He’s been here every day. Shows up, great attitude, eager to learn, is out there competing with the guys, talking trash. Which I love, because I love just amping up that level of competition in a fun way. He’s never demeaning. I think he’s been a great teammate and been a great leader for us.”

Before the offseason program, Alexander had several conversations with LaFleur and general manager Brian Gutekunst, which motivated him to participate. This engagement was driven more by a desire to strengthen his bond with the team than the $700,000 workout bonus, which didn’t convince him to attend OTAs last year.

Alexander’s presence is particularly valuable as the Packers adapt to a new defensive scheme under coordinator Jeff Hafley. Although cornerback changes are minimal, the spring period allows Alexander to familiarize himself with the new coaching staff. His initial interactions with Hafley have been positive.

“I like Jeff,” Alexander said. “He’s been great since Day 1. Preaches aggression, getting after everything. So, I mean, he’s a cool guy.”

Alexander is focused on moving past any friction with former defensive coordinator Joe Barry and sees this spring as a fresh start. He aims to return to his pre-2023 form, leaving behind the less memorable season of his career.

“I think it’s just trials and tribulations, you know,” Alexander said. “We all grow at different stages of our lifetime, whether that be sooner or later. So it’s just trial and error, and also wanted to be here for the guys. They need a leader around here.”