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Justin Hood learning from the 'savant' that is Jerry Gray in the secondary room

Justin Hood and Jerry Gray used to work together at the Packers. Now, they're reunited with the Falcons.

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — The career paths of Jerry Gray and Justin Hood have crossed yet again. This time, with the Atlanta Falcons.

Gray is in his second season as the assistant head coach/defense. Hood joined this offseason as the new secondary coach.

While Hood's arrival in Atlanta happened a year later, he and Gray came from the same previous spot. Then, with the Green Bay Packers.

Gray was with the Packers from 2020-22. Hood was 2021-23. So, technically, three years apiece, overlapping two.

That makes 2024 their third season operating together on their second shared defense.

"I love working with Jerry," Hood said. "... His mind, in terms of how he sees the game and how fast he can dissect and analyze what's going on, hopefully one day I can get there and I aspire to get there. But he's a savant."

Gray is essentially the pinnacle for Hood because the former has been in the NFL for 27 years now. In addition to the Falcons and Packers, Gray's resume includes the Minnesota Vikings (2014-19), Tennessee Titans (2011-13 and 1997-2000), Seattle Seahawks (2010), Washington Commanders (2006-09) and Buffalo Bills (2001-05). The Titans were still the Oilers when Gray earned his first professional coaching job in 1997.

From defensive quality control to coordinator, Gray has just about done it all, too.

Meanwhile, the Packers were Hood's full-time introduction in the league. He coached in the college ranks beforehand, starting in 2010.

Atlanta Falcons secondary coach Justin Hood during minicamp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Tuesday, April 23, 2024. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons)

The difference in history, though, doesn't matter in present-day meetings.

"To me, they feel cohesive," Gray said.

Said Hood: "For me, it's a collaboration."

Because their sole goal is the Falcons' success. And reaching that goal begins now, in the offseason training program.

Atlanta is amid Phase 3 of the organized team activities. The team will have its final three OTA practices next week, followed by mandatory minicamp the week after. Training camp won't begin until late July, and the season won't start until early September.

"I know when I learned from Tony Dungy, he talked about how the hard work is done in the offseason," Gray said. "We're doing a lot of hard work now to where if we get into the season, it doesn't matter if there's a guy sick or a guy can't do this, can't do that. The other person can run the room. And I think that's way better this year."

That "other person" could be a number of people, considering there are nine with a defense-specific title, but the ones Gray mentioned are Hood, head coach Raheem Morris, defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake and defensive assistant Lance Schulters.

Those are all new names in Atlanta. The only other defensive coach back from 2023 with Gray is senior assistant Dave Huxtable. So, for Gray to feel the staff is already in a better place in 2024 speaks volumes to how productive discussions have been.

That alone from Gray must spark confidence, which can be contagious.

"We just bounce ideas off each other," Hood said. "I'll come up with an idea, and I'll be excited about it. He'll be like, 'OK, great. Think about it this way.' That'll bring me to my new idea, which I'll then present. He's like, 'Yeah, I like that one.' It's been fun."

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